The architect of the Rockefeller Museum, Austen St. Barbe Harrison, was born in England in 1891. In 1913, after completing a degree in architecture in Canada, he returned to England and studied city planning in London. In 1919 Harrison was offered a job by the government of Greece to design and renovate buildings in Macedonia. During this period, he also continued his studies, focusing on Byzantine and Islamic architecture. Harrison took the opportunity to visit Constantinople and was especially taken with the city's Islamic architecture. After leaving Greece, he worked for a brief period in India.
In 1922 Harrison arrived in Palestine and was appointed Chief Architect of the Mandatory Department of Public Works. During his fifteen years in this country, he lived in a traditional Arab house in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. Harrison planned many public buildings in Jerusalem and other parts of the country, most prominent among them the Rockefeller Museum and Government House, formerly the residence of the British High Commissioner and today the U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem. In 1937 he left Palestine, before the Rockefeller Museum opened its doors to the public. He lived and worked in Egypt and Cyprus, and in the 1950s returned to Greece, where he eventually retired. Harrison died and was buried in Greece in 1976.
Harrison maintained a deep passion for the East, especially for Palestine. His buildings defined the architectural image of the period of the British Mandate in Palestine.