Foster + Partners Solar-Powered Brain Center is a First for Israel (PHOTOS)

foster + partners israel brain center Safra solar-poweredClad in building-integrated photovoltaic panels and an aluminum skin that mimics the brain’s neural mapping

Foster + Partners, the same UK architectural firm that created the zero-carbon city Masdar, is about to break ground on their first project in Israel – a solar-powered center for brain studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Working with local designers Baer, Shifman-Nathan Architects and Sherman Architecture & Programming Ltd, the firm has designed a mixed use, high tech building complete with metal and glass (largely thought to be an irresponsible material choice in sun-drenched Middle Eastern countries) that includes laboratories, classrooms, a lecture room and a research center for the Givat Ram campus. Construction is expected to be completed within three years.




The Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences will be built on a 10 dunam (roughly equivalent to an acre) plot of the campus, which is one of the main circulation zones. As such, the building, which is split in half by a large courtyard that will be covered by a transparent roof in winter, will become an exciting space for visitors to pass through en route to other parts of campus.

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The lower level of the large rectangular structure will feature transparent walls that will permit plenty of natural light and winter time solar gain.


Clad in building-integrated photovoltaic panels and an aluminum skin that mimics the brain’s neural mapping, the center will also have a green roof that will not only regulate air quality and building temperature, but also prevent storm water runoff.

Speaking with Haaretz, Foster + Partner’s head of design and co-founder Spencer de Grey said that the firm intends to build not an iconic building, the term is overused he says, but a solid building that can harmonize with the area’s existing modernist narrative.


While we have disputed the genuine sustainability of Foster + Partners in the past (recall that this firm designed the first set of buildings for Masdar in Abu Dhabi, in addition to a bank in Morocco, Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport and a host of other glittering structures), it is one of the only large corporate architecture firms that does make an effort to accommodate local climatic and cultural exigencies into their designs.

“But I think also we were very keen to build a building related to the overall sort of feel of the campus,” de Grey told the paper.

“And I think the campus has a strong integrity of buildings that relate to a landscape and raise the form of a green spine in the middle which is the high point of the site and the buildings are arranged on either side. I think we very much wanted to maintain that.”

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