Architects' Statement

The Museum of Umm el-Fahem will not be just another museum in a large city. It will constitute a precedent for cultural activity of historical dimensions. In the 1950s, when the young state of Israel decided to build the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, architects were called on to compete for the design. Mansfeld-Gat’s winning design of the Umm el-Fahem competition design was inspired to a large degree by the classic Arab-Palestinian village that is constructed in individual units – white units “glued” to the ground, clinging to it. Driving sentiments behind this architecture include the wish to belong, to become part of the place, through attachment to the soil, and to prove ownership of the land that is meant to present, more than any other place, the cultural highlights of Israel and the world.

A museum is the showcase of the culture it represents. In addition, it is loaded with political and cultural messages. We did not wish to design just another “Arab village” as a mark of the local culture. We looked beyond: The people of Umm el-Fahem have no need to make an extra effort to hold on to the soil. They don’t need to prove that they own the land, which has been theirs for many generations. We regarded the design of the museum as an opportunity to rise up from the ground, and look at the surroundings from a different, higher, and more universal viewpoint.

The museum is a dwelling of the Muses, and they, after all, reach across borders and nations. We regard the museum as a place that will present the local culture to its guests, and, at the same time, the cultures of the world to the local residents. An active museum can become a powerful cultural generator, a place where local creativity meets creations from all

over the world. It is this dialogue that will bring forth innovative works of art. The museum is meant to serve as a cultural icon, generating feelings of identity with the place as well as functioning as an opening for the acceptance of the Other. For us, the museum is an integral part of the city, and it is meant to function as a cultural center for the residents of Umm el-Fahem and its surroundings.

The museum will contain elements of the past: Collections of local culture and folklore will be exhibited here. In addition, it will house the first Arab-Israeli archive. In modern society, archives serve as a tool for dealing with, and studying, the past. The archive collects the multitude of testimonies describing the culture that existed here until 1948, the break that it experienced after 1948, and the cultural development since. The museum will further present current cultural-artistic activities. In the future, the Umm el-Fahem Museum of Contemporary Art will be able to combine the treasures of the past with the artwork of the present to turn them into materials for new creations that will measure up to the artistic world in Israel and worldwide.

The opportunity to decide the design and construction of the Umm el-Fahem Museum of Contemporary Art is unique in many aspects. For us, Jewish-Israeli architects, this is an opportunity to plan together with Arab Israelis. This compels us to learn about the Arab-Palestinian culture, the language, the past, the present, and the future. We wish to thank all those who helped to make this dream come true, and who allowed us to be part of the important tasks that yet lay before us.

—Architects Amnon Bar Or, Lior Tsionov, and Lior Vitkon