The Billy Rose Garden of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is considered to be a masterpiece of landscaping. Created by the Japanese-American artist, Isamu Noguchi (1904-88). the garden’s uniqueness is in the crescent-shaped sections that arch upward, supported by high walls that recall the terraced hills of Jerusalem and traces of agricultural activity in the Judean Hills. Noguchi’s design synthesizes elements of East and West. Like a Japanese Zen garden, the ground is covered in gravel, stones of different kinds and sizes, exposed concrete, and water, while the garden paths are lined with plants and trees, with untouched natural corners, starred with rocks and local vegetations. Monumental abstract sculptures by the likes of Henry Moore dot the grounds, providing artful contrasts to the natural landscape.
Excerpts and edited from Isamu Noguchi, Essays and Conversations.
“Neve Sha’anan ‘(tranquil abode’) the hill is called. The name is from the Bible (Isaiah 33: 20).
Look on Zion, the city of our festivals
your eyes will see Jerusalem
a peaceful abode, the tent will not be moved;
its stakes will never be pulled up
nor any of its ropes broken.
Source: Isaiah 33: 20 (The NIV Bible)
“To be asked to make a garden here, near the Valley of the Cross, was like entering into the timeless world of antiquity … Jerusalem is an emotion shared by all of us.
I saw the whole hill as a sort of Acropolis: the Israel Museum, the Shrine of the Book, together with the adjoining Hebrew University and Knesset … I wished to make a garden which is meaningful in this context…
Fundamental to the design is my regard for the sanctity of the place, the earth and the sky above. I wished to raise a song of praise to the place. The earth itself would be the means. Five curved retaining walls made of the rocks of the site would cup this earth in their great arcs … There are rock mounds all over Israel from prehistoric times, like silent prayers to the dead. From the oldest forms, we learn to build anew. The walls are, for me, prayers for the living…they have the evocative power of great wings.”
Isamu Noguchi (1904-88) was a Japanese-American artist, known for his abstract sculptures, stage sets, furniture and lighting designs. He also designed gardens and outdoor plazas, shaping landscapes as if making sculpture. His outdoor sculptures that have achieved acclaim include the Garden of Peace (UNESCO House, 1958), the Connecticut General Life Insurance Building (1956), and the above-described Rose Sculpture Garden at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (1965).