About the Polonsky Academy Building

The construction of the Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences was completed in February 2014 on the Van Leer campus. The new building was erected with the generous funding of Dr. Leonard Polonsky to serve thirty outstanding postdoctoral fellows from Israel and abroad. The building also serves to extend the activity of the VLJI and deepen the cooperation between other institutions operating on the campus: the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Council of Higher Education.

The building is considered a unique architectural gem. It is praised for its beauty and its architectural solutions, including the way it is integrated into the campus, considered a particularly difficult planning and architectural challenge.



The Polonsky Academy building won the 2015 Design Prise in the Public Buildings and Architectural Lighting categories. The judges noted the beauty and uniqueness of the building: “Restraint, integration and transparency characterize the new wing the Van Leer Campus … Light, a sense of levitation, and dialogue between interior and exterior produce a feeling of tranquitily and support the desire to learn, explore and understand.”

The building was also chosen that year by Archilovers as one of the most loved, out of 50,000 projects.


The total area of the building is 7,200 square meters, on four levels. In addition to thirty rooms for fellows, it has five seminar rooms, an advanced research and academic library, a restaurant that serves the entire campus, a 145-seat auditorium, a multi-purpose hall for events and conferences, administration offices, a fitness room, and expansive foyers for both formal and informal meetings.

In the construction of the Polonsky Academy great effort was invested in the conservation of energy, to meet the green standard of education buildings. To achieve this aim, innovative electromechanical systems that excel in conserving and saving energy were used. Special attention was given to the use of environment-friendly materials. Most of the trees around the building, including pines and olives, were preserved, and can be seen through the northern windows.

The Construction Process

In response to Dr. Polonsky’s initial offer, the institute prepared a detailed program for the proposed building and for the development of the entire campus. It invited six leading Israeli architectural firms to participate in a competition for the design of the building and its integration among the existing structures.

The basic design requirements were:

  • An open and welcoming design with restrained elegance
  • Preservation of the unique architectural character of the campus
  • Preservation of the skyline in the institute and its environs
  • Total compatibility with the planning principles of the Talbiyeh neighborhood
  • Compatibility with the principles of green construction, as laid out in Israeli Standard 5281
  • Total accessibility to all parts of the building and the campus

In November 2008 the architectural competition was held with an international panel of judges. Chyutin Architects was selected to design the new building.

The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 2010, in the presence of the donor and his wife, Dr. Georgette Bennett; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; the heads of higher education in Israel; representatives of the three major religions; and other public figures. On December 31, 2010, after receiving the necessary permits, the project was launched.

Excavating the foundations took three months. At the same time, all the preparatory work was carried out, including the boring of 46 shafts to a depth of 135 meters, in order to create a geothermal heat exchange with the ground, the first of its kind and scope in Israel. The heat exchange eliminates the need for air conditioning units, which are large and loud.

Construction of the academy progressed on schedule and within the planned budget, until the building’s inauguration on July 17, 2013.