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Yad Vashem – Through a Magnifyer

Preserving the Yad Vashem Model

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In June 2023, my Studio Oro team completed the preservation of the Yad Vashem model. The model was built in 2005 by architect Moshe Safdie to illustrate the unique architectural structure he created for the new Holocaust History Museum. A triangular prism made of exposed concrete that penetrates through the mountain. At the top, along the entire length of the tunnel, are two window surfaces that let sunlight in the entire length of the tunnel. In the sunken area of the mountain, only the windows protrude above the natural vegetation. At the end of the tunnel, the concrete walls of the triangular prism open like soft sponge surfaces and expose visitors to the magical view of the Jerusalem Forest, a detail that symbolizes the rebirth and reality today. At the entrance to the new museum, a video by Michal Rovner is displayed on the entire triangular wall of the prism, showing Jewish life in Europe before the 2nd World war. From there you can also see the light at the end of the tunnel, but in order to reach it, visitors must pass through a winding road that passes between halls displaying the events of the war and the Holocaust in various countries.

Like many other models designed by Moshe Safdie, the model was built entirely from organic materials, in order to present the building in as authentic an environment as possible and to make it a museum exhibit itself. In addition to the topographic structure of the Jerusalem Hills and all Yad Vashem buildings, the model includes about 500 dwarf cypress trees and 2,500 trees and other vegetation items. Looking at the model through a magnifying glass, one can imagine walking among the trees of the natural woodland, to the shade of the memorial trees planted in honor and memory of the Righteous Among the Nations.

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For 18 years, the model was displayed in the entrance hall of Yad Vashem. There it was exposed to direct sun that damaged much of its components. The colors of the vegetation faded, the trees became brittle and crumbling, the glue from which the cypresses were formed crumbled, and many parts of the buildings were cracked and deformed.

"Planning the preservation process was accompanied by deliberation. We needed creative thinking in order to maintain authenticity to the model. Out of conservation consideration, we chose not to replace the trees and vegetation. We used a special liquid that is absorbed into the material, causing consolidation of the fibers and hardening the envelope. In order to preserve the many trees, we invented a "patent": we added green pigment to the coating material and sprayed on the foliage and vegetation details. Thus we received at the same time the painting of the external surfaces of the vegetation and also the hardening of the details of the plants. Cracked structures repaired. Those that were in particularly poor condition were replaced with new parts made of the same wood as the original."

And the result, see the photographs. Yad Vashem is preparing a suitable place where the model will be placed in a special showcase that will preserve it for many years.

Photos by: Itai Bodel

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