STREET AS A CASE STUDY
is probably no other capital city main street in the Western world equal in its
functional and physical misery to Jaffa Street. Behind thick
layers of degeneration and negligence lies, however, a fascinating historical
urban story that reflects multi-layers of politics, security, economics and
society, in addition to changes in planning concepts, standard of design, and
quality of building.
which lies along 3 km
from Jaffa Gate up to the western entrance of the
city, is the main development axis of Jerusalem.
Here, the periods of prosperity and depression faithfully
mirror the urban processes that have taken place in the city since the shift to
reside outside the Old City walls in the mid 1900s; the latter years of the
Ottoman period; the British Mandate; the divided city of the new-born state;
the extreme changes which occurred after the Six Day War, and up to recent
the mid 1900s to the beginning of the Mandate there
was a gradual development from a dirt road in a deserted area to a lively urban
street. During this period Jewish neighborhoods were established along the
street (such as Hatserot Even Israel and Ohel Shlomo) along with buildings
of charity (like the Shaarei Tsedek
Hospital), a number of Christian buildings such as the “pilgrims’ city” within
the Russian compound, and a row of a commercial buildings built by the Armenian
construction began during the British Mandate. In the 30 years of the Mandate (1918-1948) the city center manifested itself as an urban
network with an advanced European character. The mandatory planning was based on a sequence of enclosed structures at curb line,
defining the street area by their continuous façades
of 2 to 4 stories. On the ground floor there was a
succession of shops, and above them residential apartments or offices. The
buildings were designed in a number of styles, prominent among them the
eclectic style incorporating modern elements with neo-classic ones, and the
international style that combined cubic blocks with vaulted wings.
Mandate construction is considered to this day to be the city’s
most prosperous. Its urban design quality is reflected
in a few of the public buildings in the area between Tzahal
square and the junction of Shlomzion Hamalka Street.
One such is the historic Council building (in front of what used to be Allenby square - Tzahal square of
today) designed by architect Clifford Holiday and completed in 1932. Further on
is a cluster of 3 buildings built in the second half
of the 30s as a continuation of the street: the Anglo-Palestine Bank (Bank Leumi today), the Central Post Office building, and the
Italian Generali insurance company building. These 3 modern buildings which project a civil dignity, illustrate
the commercial development in the city center at that time.
by Erich Mendelssohn in 1939, the Anglo-Palestine Bank was one of the most
important financial institutions of the Jewish settlement in the Mandate
period. The 7-story rectangular structure (on the Jaffa
Street side) includes typical Mendelssohnian elements
on its side face, such as flowing lines and round windows similar to the portholes of a ship. The Central Post Office building, which was inaugurated a year earlier,
was designed by architect Austin St. Barb Harrison. Its architectural
uniqueness comes from its monumental and quiet character. One of its
outstanding characteristics is a plinth built from the combination of white and
black stone, a reminder of the Mameluke building in Jerusalem. Harrison used
a similar principle in the façades
of the Central Post Office building in Jaffa, but there the combination
is of white and red stone.
third building in this group is the Generali building
constructed by the well known Italian architect
Marcello Piacentini, who was connected to the Fascist
ruling circles of Benito Mussolini. The building corner, simulating the prow of
a ship, is accentuated by an impressive stone
sculpture of a winged lion, the commercial symbol of the insurance company -
thus defining the urban importance of Jaffa and Shlomzion
Hamalka junction. The first plan was prepared in 1932
by Richard Kaufman. However, his plan - a 7 story convex building with curving
lines in the international style, was rejected.
quality of construction typical of this period is also expressed in 5 buildings, part of which are 3 stories high, located
between Heleni Hamalka and Harav Kook. These buildings, separated by narrow lanes
perpendicular to Jaffa St., create an
impressive urban block. The buildings are situated at curb line, and their façades are carefully designed
with high quality stone details and stylized metal work.
the establishment of the state there has been a
significant regression in the planning quality of many of the buildings
constructed along Jaffa St., especially when
compared to the buildings from the Mandate period. The majority of the new
buildings have been erected without any real architectural or urban concept,
and without a comprehensive vision of the functional level and appropriate
appearance of the main street in a capital city of international standing.
most obvious failures of the pre Six Day War architecture are two highrises: Clal
Center adjacent to Davidka
square, and Hapoalim Bank on Zion square. At the time of their
construction it was hoped that they would liven the center of Jerusalem, and the city administrators
granted them exceptional building rights.
hopes, however, were not realized, and not only did the buildings fail to renew
the street, but they actually accelerated its degeneration. Since the Zion cinema was closed in 1972, Zion square has gradually
lost its importance as an entertainment center and social meeting place. The
construction of the Clal
Center on the corner of Jaffa and Kol
Yisrael Haverim streets
caused the destruction of most of the buildings comprising Kol Israel
Haverim School - the first Jewish vocational college in Jerusalem, inaugurated in
their place, the large and heavy center was built, the lower part of which is
used for commerce, and above - a 14 story residential tower.
was the first attempt to create a luxurious roofed shopping center in Jerusalem. However, since
its completion in 1979 it has exemplified a typical Jerusalem commercial failure. It has neither
anchor shops nor the continuity of small businesses, and, in addition to its
activities ending in the early afternoon, none of the bank branches at the
entrances are a sufficient source of attraction. Moreover, the building plan
makes it hard to find ones way around; the wide granite surfaces create a very
mournful effect; and the stone covering on the façades
is too thin to withstand the ravages of the weather. Some of the tiles have
fallen and the rest look dirty.
failure of Clal Center stands out especially in view
of the expectations it had generated, and because of the ”pioneering act” of
its construction. In addition, this burning failure prevented a wide scope of
investments in the city center, and caused entrepreneurs to look for more
worthwhile alternatives on the periphery.
most successful project along Jaffa St. since 1967 is Kiryat Hairiya (city council) on Safra square. The project combines 10 preserved and
restored historical buildings, with 2 modern office
buildings and 3 public squares. Its completion in 1993 created a high standard
urban locality which contributed to the renewal of the
neglected area around it. However, public criticism has been
expressed about the lack of cultural and commercial functions in the
surroundings. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the poor conditions of the
city square and the city center around it, is the lack
of commercial, cultural and entertainment functions that might nourish each other.
new buildings that were constructed in the last decade at the western end of Jaffa St.
- Sharei Hair and the central bus station, express
the current building taking place in Jerusalem,
both in their scale and positioning along the curb line.
Sharei Hair (1997), planned by the Reznik
office, is a 10 story office building whose concave shape defines Nordau square at the junction of Jaffa
and Sharei Yisrael. The new
bus station (2002), planned by Zeev Schoenberg, is a
boxlike building of 8 stories following the curve-line of Jaffa
St., with shops on the lower floors.
St. is at its lowest today esthetically and
functionally. However, both its importance as the main street of the city and
the quality of its historical buildings enhance its chances of being restored. There is no reason that the processes that
have taken place in the centers of other cities around the world should not
also take place in the center of Jerusalem
- and Jaffa
St. will once again be a lively and effervescent
street with all its national significance.
change from depression to prosperity can be achieved
with a little more urban intelligence and less negligence. Along the street
there are segments built with one or another historical importance. Among them there are some available areas with good potential for
development. The architectural standard of construction in those areas will
determine the future of the street and the city center around it.
The article is based on excerpts of David Kroyankers
St., Jerusalem: a
Biography of a Street - the Story of a City”, 2005.