Museum of Tolerance, Jerusalem Architects Threaten To Quit

The Simon Wiesenthal Center's new Museum of Tolerance building in Jerusalem has hit yet another snag in its impending construction, this time with its current architects. Chyutin Architects is threatening to quit after the Center did not deliver on a scheduled payment, although the Center claims that the Tel Aviv-based Chyutin Architects did not fulfill certain stipulations outlined in their contract.

Lior Chorev, a spokesman for the Wiesenthal Center, said that the problem could be easily resolved. "Our financial guys have told them that once they fulfill the contract, we will pay them the money. This is donors' money. Our guys are just doing their job." Despite claims of financial woes, day-to-day relations between the Center and Chyutin Architects may also be to blame for the brewing discontent. A municipal official told the Israeli paper Haaretz, "The [Wiesenthal] Center drove the architects crazy. It asked for daily briefings and nagged them to death."

This follows a series of unfortunate events that have found the proposed museum constantly at the center of controversy. Tafnit Wind, the construction management company responsible for the project, quit last month, citing difference of opinion with the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center. This came after renowned architect Frank Gehry resigned last year amid pressure to redesign the plans for the museum. Public sentiments that the design was too grandiose and a lack of funding forced the Center to reconsider the original design and Gehry found his schedule too demanding to be involved.

These architectural disputes came only after larger issues held the construction in courtroom limbo for three years following the discovery of a 1,000 year-old Muslim cemetery on the proposed site. A preliminary survey of the site found ancient bones and forced the relocation of several graves. Even in the face of such debates, construction of the museum is set to go ahead as scheduled. "The construction is going forward as scheduled and the financial dispute will have no impact whatsoever on the project,'' Avra Shapiro, spokeswoman for the Wiesenthal Center wrote in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times.