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Frank Gehry Quits Museum of Tolerance Project

March 3, 2010

By Esther Hecht

Frank Gehry, FAIA, has stepped down as lead architect of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. His departure has caused yet another setback to the project, which has been plagued by controversy and a nearly three-year court battle.

Museum of Tolerance Project
Image courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center
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An Israeli architect, to be selected by competition, will be announced within three months, said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is backing the project.

The controversy erupted in 2006 after work at the site uncovered graves and human remains, prompting a lawsuit by two Muslim groups. The site, in the city center, was once part of a large Muslim cemetery but in recent decades served as a parking lot. 

The 230,000-square-foot museum was expected to cost $200 million to $250 million, of which some $50 million had been raised in cash and pledges, Hier said. This past November, the Wiesenthal Center’s board decided to halve the size and cost. “We scaled it down to what is doable,” Hier said.

In a joint statement issued in January with the center, Gehry said “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.” Gehry was not available to comment for this story.

At the 2003 groundbreaking and in the court ruling, the museum was seen as promising a “Bilbao effect” that would revive the moribund city center and attract tourism. But human rights groups, scholars, and others continue to oppose the project.

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