Mount Herzl Memorial Hall, finished in September 2017, was excavated in the Jerusalem mountain to form an intimate space for a personal and collective experience of commemoration. Above the hall, the mountain was reconstructed with an undulating funnel shaped formation of bricks which opens the hall to the sky, flooding the void with natural light. Kimmel Eshkolot Architects was selected by the Israeli Ministry of Defence to design the memorial in 2006. The second key element to their design concept, apart from the space of the hall, was a 250 meter long continuous “Wall of Names” that wraps around the central sculptural brick structure. Following a spiral ramp up the memorial, the wall is built of 23,000 bricks, each individually engraved with the name of a fallen soldier, the date the soldier was killed and a candle to be lit on the anniversary of the soldier’s death.
Inside the mountain, the central funnel of light connects the excavated memorial hall with the sky. The design development of the funnel was done in consultation with the digital fabrication research team of ROB Technologies at the Swiss Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH). It is constructed of 8,000 bricks which were cut from a custom made extruded aluminium profile of 40x10 cm. Each brick was CNC’d and marked, to allow for the assembly on site of the irregular structure.
Several 1:1 mockups were constructed at ETH Zurich to test the construction of the funnel. The initial strategy was based on glueing the bricks to one another, aiming at a minimal overlap between the elements. This method was proven to be structurally viable, but was neglected because it could not meet the local building regulations. With these tests, Kimmel Eshkolot developed together with Ackerstein Industries and Merkava unique concrete bricks with steel cores, which were screwed together at the pre-cut joints. Further calculations of the the live loads and the dead loads led to making the bricks from aluminium to reduce weight.
With the intention of creating a serene space for the hall, the design of the memorial is firstly a project of an interior. Excavating the mountain to allow for abundance of daylight in the hall was the primary focus, with the reconstruction of the terrain being secondary. It is intended to be unimposing from the exterior, and to echo the texture of the adjacent cemetery. In the interior, the light that enters through the oculus is subtly filtered through the funnel. Through this “stone lace”, light flickers in the parameter of the hall, on the Wall of Names.
Set in a calm biblical scenery, but adjacent to the nowadays busy streets of Jerusalem, the main commemoration space is isolated and quiet. In its exterior, the project follows the topography of the mountain with curves of light Jerusalem stone. Visitors can walk directly through it towards Mount Herzl Cemetery, or walk down a series of stairs to the entrance of the hall, along a brick wall which in the interior becomes the Wall of Names.