Jerusalem’s Modern Iconic Buildings

Jerusalem is a city full of history and culture, and much of it is housed in some truly extraordinary buildings. Some of the buildings date back centuries; however, there are many buildings that are truly modern and symbolic of the country that Israel is today. 

For example, if you ever visit the Israel Museum you can’t help but notice the Shrine of the Book. Armand Bartos and Frederic Kiesler designed it as a home for the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls that were found in Qumran in 1947. The building is designed to reflect the scrolls within with a white dome that represents the lids of the jars the scrolls were found in and the contrasting black and white represent the tension of the scrolls.

An even more modern and equally iconic Jerusalem structure is the Chords Bridge at the city’s entrance. It was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and you can’t fail to miss it as you drive into the city. The bridge carries the light rail over it as well as cyclists and pedestrians and it is sight to behold at night when it lights up with a special show.

Staying with modern Jerusalem, another building worth mentioning is the City Hall complex in Safra Square. The building is a blend of post-modern architecture and it incorporates traditional Mamluk style. If you are in the area, then be sure to check out the free tour that is conducted in English each week. 

A particularly impressive building is the Supreme Court. It houses chambers for fifteen justices in addition to serving as the High Court of Justice and High Court of Appeal.  The building was donated to the country by the philanthropist Dorothy de Rothschild and was opened in 1992. Ram Karmi and Ada Karmi-Melamede, a brother and sister team who beat off 180 architectural firms from Israel and around the world in a competition to design the building, were the brains behind it. It contains three main sections, a square library wing, a rectangular administrative wing, and a wing with five courtrooms. The shapes are said to be inspired by biblical metaphors and the ideas of justice, trust, law, charity and mercy. There are free daily tours of the court in English and it is also possible to go on a virtual tour. 

Another modern Jerusalem iconic building is the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was first established in 1953 and its most recent building, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, was opened in 2005. The building makes careful use of lighting to highlight the exhibits and it has a prism-like structure that conveys a sense of elegance. 

Slightly less modern, but equally impressive, is the Jerusalem International YMCA. Arthur Loomis Harmon, who was also the architect responsible for the Empire State Building, constructed it in 1933. He had a vision of peace and cooperation between the varying religions of the region and as such, he incorporated architectural traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the building. The entire complex is well worth a visit, including the secret garden that is hidden behind it.

There are many more incredible buildings to be found in Jerusalem, such as the new train station at the entrance of the city, and more are being built all of the time. Be sure to visit as many of them as you can while on your gap year in Israel.