Celebrated architect Frank Gehry has denied his partner’s contention—reported in Tablet Magazine—that their firm ceased to participate in the plans for a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem due to “perceived political sensitivities.”
In Michael Z. Wise’s Tablet Magazine story, published yesterday, Gehry Partners design partner Craig Webb said the firm was “no longer involved in the project,” and added, “It is politically very sensitive.” The statement likely referred to the museum’s proposed site on a centuries-old Muslim cemetery and the subsequent chorus that has demanded it be built elsewhere. (Others have taken issue with Gehry’s futuristic design; they argue it is incompatible with Jerusalem’s stone cityscape. Wise wrote that the museum as Gehry designed it “would hardly have ranked among Gehry’s finest creations.”)
But! The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, said yesterday in a statement (which is not online; we received it via email) that, in fact, it was the Center that chose to go in a different direction. And right there to confirm this assertion was Gehry himself. Said the architect (who, for the record, is Jewish): “Unfortunately, our staff and resources are committed to other projects around the globe, and thus I will not be able to participate in the redesign effort. Contrary to a published report quoting my partner Craig Webb, this parting has nothing whatsoever to do with perceived political sensitivities.” That would be Tablet Magazine’s published report. Gehry went on to give the “vitally important” museum his best wishes.
The Center said the switch is intended “to reflect today’s world economic realities.” And Hier praised Gehry: “Frank has done an amazing job and has worked with us at every step of the way to realize our dreams.” Neither Gehry nor Hier was available to comment for Wise’s article.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s first Museum of Tolerance opened in Los Angeles in 1993.
Unbuilt [Tablet Magazine]
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.