Open Letter to the Starchitects of the National Library of Israel
Dear Mr. Herzog and Mr. de Meuron,
I am sending you this open letter to publicly clarify the surprising news that you are planning a new building for the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.
I know your work well as an Architect from when I worked and shared the office space in Hamburg, at Höhler+Partner and also by having worked closely with a former colleague of yours in Switzerland, Mr. Jose Berrueta. From these instances and close proximity to your work and coworkers, I can say that I have always respected the inspiring work and ethics of your practice.
If you have visited Palestine recently like I did last summer of 2015, you would have surely witnessed the unlawful and apartheid-like use of force and control of basic resources such as water, being perpetuated by the current Israeli Government against the Palestinians. This disproportionate, repressing and humiliating use of force is widely condemned by the international community.
Your decision to plan such a building comes to me as disappointing news also due to your recent
collaboration with artists such as Ai Weiwei, famous for his humanitarian activism through arts.
This project is highly political involving all high level members of the Israeli Government and with the financing of the Rothschild and the David and Ruth Gottesman families of New York. Added to that, the location (Jerusalem) and purpose (National Library) of the building are a clear political statement. In taking part of such project, it seems rather clear that you and your office are supporting the current government of Israel. In your recent lecture on April the 5th 2016 in Jerusalem entitled “How Architecture Is Bound to a Specific Ground”, Mr Herzog, did you use the local examples of the construction of settlements throughout Palestine or the destruction of Palestinian houses overnight as an example of the remarkable power of architecture in neo-colonization strategies?
I am sending this letter because often there are other unknown reasons justifying such actions. For example, back in 2011, I was requested to design the Al-Beruni Library in Tashkent. My first reaction was to refuse such an invitation due to the atrocious human rights record of the government led by Mr. Karimov that continues to engage in endemic political imprisonment and torture practices. Höhler+Partner’s board guaranteed me shortly after that this project is an independent one initiated by UNESCO and the Omani Government, to urgently rescue the original and unique literary documents of Al-Beruni’s work, which are being stored in appalling conditions. Under this framework, I accepted and proposed a design as there was a higher cause that needed support.
Architects are not mere facilitators; they shape people’s lives and have a very strong voice in our society, and with it, responsibility. Please explain to me and to the public in general, if there are higher moral reasons as to be building such a National Library in Jerusalem, which I am unaware of, and which would topple the ongoing political agenda and humanitarian crisis related to it?
P.S. (This letter has been sent in printed format to Herzog & De Meuron’s Office in Basel, per E-mail to email@example.com and to several newspapers for public dissemination in several languages)
The press release can be downloaded here Several website publications can inform about the details such as:
Article also published in: https://elcomunista.net/2016/05/11/open-letter-to-the-starchitects-of-the-national-library-of-israel/