The Building of Charles Clore’s Student Dormitories was planned by the architect Arieh El Hanani for the Weizmann Institute of Science in 1963. The structure was built by the Solel Boneh Company. It is a 3-storey building sitting above a partial column level and a basement with a window well ventilated from the south and enabling the light to reach the underground floor.
Originally, the basement was used as a mess hall, but during the years its designation was changed as student living rooms were added. Due to its location at the border of the Institute and a residential neighborhood in the city of Rehovot, it features a unique urban-architectural situation. The structure is a singular urban event among the structures in Weizmann Institute, because its façade is located on a city street (Ha-Nassi Ha-Rishon St.), enabling pedestrian entry into the Institute through the structure situated between the Institute and the City of Rehovot.
Thus, the building has two main entrances: one from Ha-Nassi Ha-Rishon Street, and the other via a spectacular garden in the Institute itself. Thus, the building benefits from two main façades enjoying meticulous maintenance and earns maximum exposure for both the city and for the Institute visitors.
The building’s construction style is that of the Brutalist Architectural Style, that was common in those years among Israeli architects, and features construction materials typical for the period: exposed concrete, wood, glass, Terazzo casts and a pebble wall. The entrance floor serves as a common public space, most of it being open through glazed openings toward the garden on the side of the Weizmann Institute. At the center of the structure there is a large patio built on the second floor level and serving as open area ventilating the stairs and corridors. Two open staircases (on both sides of the inner patio) serve the dwellers of the dormitories. Original elevator (that served the building’s founder Charles Clore and the Institute’s guests) could reach the last floor only. Over time this floor was converted into student dormitories.
The common public functions are concentrated at the entrance floor: reception room / building’s maintenance office, lobby, music room. The seating area features an impressive sculpted wall by the artist Dani Karavan, which was supposed to be illuminated through the skylight window, but was covered and closed due to water leaks. As a result the light does not penetrate inside during the day.
Against the building’s façade toward the Institute a “Gestetner Garden” was planned by the landscape architects Yahalom-Tzur, who were also responsible for the design of most open spaces in the Institute.
After years of neglect and lack of use, the management of the Institute decided to appoint the architect Shmuel Potash to redesign the building and its conversion into student dormitories matching modern standards. This action required a fundamental change within the structure and adding lavatories and showers in each room, as well as matching the mandatory acoustic, thermal and environmental demands. The main preservation challenge was to enable minimal building additions on the structure’s roof while preserving its’ original values and shape with all the relevant details.
The patio was planned anew to enable the light penetrate the entrance lobby and natural illumination for the sculpted wall – the creation of Dani Karavan. All the exposed concretes underwent “surgical” treatment and were restored without harming the original exposed concrete texture. Most of the original external details such as shutters, wood covering of the porch walls, concrete parapets and other details remained in place and underwent meticulous professional cleaning conducted by the “Arco” Company.
The main challenge in the conservation of this important building was preservation of the many surfaces of the exposed building, which are the main architectural mark of the period’s style.
Project Start: 2011
Project Completion: Summer 2014
Client: Weizmann Institute of Science
Chief Architect: Shmuel Potash
Project Management: Epstein Project Management
Photography: Avi Levi