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Ada Karmi-Melamede, architect, lecturer and researcher in architecture, who was born on December 24, 1936, is one of the most important architects in Israel. Her father, Dov Karmi (b. Russia, 1905–1962), who studied at the School of Architecture and Engineering in Ghent, Belgium, was the first architect to receive the Israel Prize in architecture (1957). Her mother, Haia (née Maklev, born in Petah Tikvah, 1909), a dedicated homemaker, studied at the School of Social Studies in Montpelier, France. Ada’s family were, in her own words, “multi-national, multi-experienced and very colorful.” Following in the footsteps of her father, who designed both residential and public buildings such as the El Al building and the Cameri Theater, Ada Karmi-Melamede is proud to be part of the modernist Israeli heritage. Her work combines modernist universal design principles with a Mediterranean building style: internal courtyards (“roofless rooms,” as she called them), sensitivity to climate and regard for the importance of the relationship between light and shade in a land blessed with sun. In her work, Karmi-Melamede wishes to create a profound organic consistency and a sense of belonging to the time and location.
Ada Karmi-Melamede was born and raised in Tel Aviv. On leaving school she served in a Nahal paramilitary unit at a kibbutz near Lake Kinneret, spending her free time studying at the Ein Hod artists’ colony. Her quandary as to whether to study art or architecture was resolved for her by her older brother, Ram, who advised her to choose the latter. Between 1956 and 1959 she studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and between 1961 and 1962 she continued her studies at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, where she received her B.A. in Architecture in 1963. Between 1962 and 1967 she worked with her brother, Ram Karmi (b. 1931), one of Israel’s foremost architects, at first in the framework of their late father’s firm, Dov Karmi Associates, and later within the framework of Karmi Associates Architects. This firm, established in 1964, was jointly owned by Ada and Ram Karmi. However, in 1967 Karmi-Melamede left the family firm and established herself in the United States, where she remained for the next twenty years. Between 1967 and 1986 Karmi-Melamede worked and taught architecture at Columbia University (1969–1982), where in 1977 she became a professor of architecture, Yale University (1985 and 1993) and the University of Pennsylvania (1991). She has been a visiting critic at Yale, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. In 1984 she received a research grant from the United States National Endowment for the Arts, for a study of Architecture in Palestine under the Mandate, which is the subject of a book and exhibition scheduled for 2006–2007. She had previously received two grants from the same source, one in 1975 for a study of Second Avenue, New York City, and another in 1976–1977 for a study of transportation, mixed-use development, housing and industry in Long Island City.
Karmi-Melamede returned to Israel in 1986 to participate in the highly regarded international competition for designing the Supreme Court Building in Jerusalem. The design which she created in collaboration with her brother, Ram Karmi, won the first prize. Their role in this project included all the exterior and interior designs, custom furniture and landscaping. Opened in November 1993, the Supreme Court building is considered one of the most important and intriguing buildings in Israel. It combines numerous symbols and architectural references, such as the direct view towards the legislative power, the Knesset, and to various architectural aspects of the Old City and the Arched Courtyard of the Rockefeller Museum.
In 1992 she formed her own firm, Ada Karmi-Melamede and Partners. Following the prestigious prize for the Supreme Court, she became well known to the general Israeli public and established herself, like her father and brother, at the head of the professional pyramid. Her earlier years at the heart of some of the world’s most important academic centers contributed to her profound conceptual thinking and her clear representation of design theses. In her work she seeks to reveal an authentic Israeli expression and is opposed to passing fashions and short-lived popular trends. The critical approach in Karmi-Melamede’s work creates a complex link to the past, avoiding superficial imitation. Her work includes urban planning, public buildings, residential complexes and urban private homes. Among her important projects are:
In 1961 Ada Karmi married economist Amos Melamede (1933–1994). They had three children: Michal (b. 1962), Gur (b. 1964) and Yael (b. 1968), all of whom live and work in the United States.
Karmi, Ram. “Tel Aviv 2000: Towers, Towers.” Studio 79 (January 1997): 61–65; Karmi-Melamede, Ada and Hanan Pomagrin. Single Family House. Tel Aviv: 2002; Karmi-Melamede, Ada, and David Robins. Life Sciences Buildings, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Basel: 2003; Ran, Ami. “Orchestration motif in the architecture of Ada Karmi-Melamede.” Architecture of Israel, 25 (April–May 1996): 36–45; “The Amotz Sorek Spiritual Dimension.” Binyan ve-Diyur 49 (April–May 1997): 124–132; Sternhell, Ziva. “Women Architects, out of the kitchen!” Hadashot, May 18, 1990, 36–37; Idem. “Karmi’s Square.” Haaretz, November 8, 2002, B11; Sharon, Yosef. The Supreme Court Building in Jerusalem. Yad Hanadiv: 1993.