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Jewish Journal

Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance architects threaten to quit

by Tom Tugend

October 5, 2011 | 5:08 pm

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance.

The architects of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem have threatened to resign, two weeks before the scheduled start of construction.

Bracha and Michael Chyutin, the two architects, charged that the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, sponsor and funder of the $100 million project, “drove the architects crazy. They asked for daily briefings and nagged them to death,” according to a Jerusalem city official quoted by the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The company running the project, Tafnit Wind, also quit about a month ago, following differences of opinion with the Wiesenthal Center, Haaretz reported.

In a statement to The Journal Wednesday, Wiesenthal Center officials confirmed that “We are involved in a financial contractual dispute with Chyutin Architects. We are committed to try and resolve it as soon as possible.

“However, we want to make it very clear that the construction of the Museum of Tolerance project is going forward as scheduled and this financial dispute will have no impact whatsoever on the progress of the project and on the construction timeline. We will file all permits on time and will begin construction after the High Holidays.”

As to the “nagged to death” charges, a center spokeswoman replied that the project was funded by private donors, so “our guys were just doing their due diligence.”

When completed, the Center for Human Dignity- Museum of Tolerance is to include an exhibition space, theater and education center in some 150,000 square feet of space, as well as outdoor gardens and an amphitheater.

Originally, the museum architecture was conceived on a much larger and more elaborate scale, at a cost of $250 million, by architect Frank Gehry. This concept was attacked by some Jerusalem residents for its grandiose design, as well as the claim that the building site was on top of an ancient Muslim cemetery.

After years of litigation, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that construction could go ahead. However, for financial reasons, it was decided to downsize the design by Gehry, who then resigned from the project.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said the new museum would not infringe on Yad Vashem’s mission of Holocaust remembrance, but rather focus on human rights, as well as genocides and war crimes throughout the world.

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