The Rechter Prize for Architecture was won this year by two buildings, just to make things more exciting... The winners are the Yad La-Yeled Childrens Memorial Museum at Kibbutz Lohamei Ha-Getaot, designed by Ram Karmi, and the Spiral House in Ramat Gan. The prizegiving ceremony was accompanied by a screech of brakes on the part of architect Shmuel Groberman, who claims undisputed partnership with Zvi Hecker in the planning of the Spiral House, having been 'invited by him in the 1980s to plan the structure as a partner in all respects'. Since the completion of the structure in Tzel Ha-Giva Street in Ramat Gan, it has become a focus of attraction for architects and students who come to experience the strange, dynamic building, which - at least in the first years of its existence - was considered innovative in its concept. The significant difference between the two winning buildings, both based on a spiral plan, is the way in which they relate to the environment. While Karmis museum is well integrated into the pastoral landscape, the Spiral House uses the landscape almost egoistically. One can observe the surrounding open areas from all parts of the building and enjoy the free flow of air which seems to climb its stairs. By contrast with romantic Ram Karmi, who uses the spiral as a drill digging into the earth, Hecker (and/or Shmuel Groberman) takes off with it in an uphill flight. In his book 'Israeli Architecture in the 20th Century', author Aba Elhanani claims that the Spiral House, located opposite Dubiner House (designed by Hecker, Eldar Sharon and Alfred Neumann) differs radically from it in its planning concept. It may be, however, that Elhanani never visited Dubiner House, which is itself based on a spiral concept. Although the visit to the Spiral House is an experience in itself, both buildings - on opposite sides of the same street - are so different from each other as to be totally alien, and may well have been designed by two different architects. By the way, if the jury, headed by Bracha Chyutin, managed to overcome unprofessional considerations and boldly grant the Rechter Prize to a scion of the Karmi Family, which is engaged in a feud with her, why did it not take the opportunity and give the prize to the Supreme Court Building? Are they waiting for it to become obsolete?
Design in Education 98. The Israel Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports held an exhibition displaying the works of architecture students. The purpose - to develop awareness of the architectural aspects of educational buildings - is an excellent one, in my opinion. After all, this is exactly where children are given their initial criteria for evaluation of the construction in their environment. It is even possible that a few explanations to children might prevent the unjustified 'guard rail counting' that has been going on in Israel lately. Children fall out of windows not because there are no guard rails, but because no one bothers to explain to them that it is really not necessary to climb walls, in the same way in which adults explain to children that climbing on moving cars is dangerous. I hope that, following the attempt to turn Israeli schools into jails with barred windows, architects will not stop looking for original, creative approaches to the planning of school buildings. In any event, of the 30 works submitted to the competition, 10 won prizes, divided into three categories. First prize for the 'Complex Project' was won by Avigyil Dolev, second prize by Doron Munin and third prize by Nirit Putiyevski, all of the WIZO Canada School. First prize for the 'Simple Project' was won by Shiri Chayut, second prize by Liat Kaslasi and third prize by Eran Tamir, all of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. First prize for the 'Product Design' was won by Dafna Kauper of the WIZO Canada School; second prize was won by Keren Goldshtein and Ravit Berger, third prize by Galit Bardor and Batia Keshet, and fourth prize by Meggie Asiag and Einat Manof, all of the College of Management.
Chanan de Langa - Exhibition of New Work, 1998, was launched at the Periscope Gallery. The theme of the exhibition is bookcases made of sawn boxes, which juxtapose the esthetic and the functional by means of minor individual deviations of the personal from the identical. This idea is also applicable in architecture, which believes at times that the more different, the better...
Art and Reality in Jerusalem. A collection of works by some 40 Jerusalem artists with different artistic concepts was displayed (until February 2) at Artists House in Jerusalem. The works were selected on the basis of their handling of the city, the landscape, religion and politics as a microcosmic symbol of Israeli society. Curator: Ilan Wizgan.
The exhibition of Moshe Safdies museum architecture has moved from Tel Aviv University to Haifa, and will be on display at the National Museum of Science, Design and Technology from February 1 to April 30, 1999. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavish catalog (which looks like a good book) designed by Hava Mordohovich, published by the Genia Schreiber Art Gallery at Tel Aviv University.
The Leonardo da Vinci - Scientist and Engineer exhibition is also on display at the National Museum of Science, Design and Technology in Haifa. This exhibition includes more than 30 exhibits demonstrating Leonardos brilliance. The exhibits were constructed by a technical team at the Museum on the basis of his original drawings, and may be operated by visitors. The exhibition will run until the end of April 1999.
A design workshop on the subject of Jerusalems three-dimensional form will be held between March 2-4, 1999, at the initiative of the Jerusalem branch of the New Architects Association, Bezalel, the Jerusalem City Engineer Division and the Center for Design of Historic Cities. The workshop will discuss the image of the city as the 'Heavenly Jerusalem' relative to the Jerusalem experienced in 'earthly' day-to-day life. The workshop will be attended by architects from all over Israel and students at Bezalel, divided into teams of seven participants. Moderators: David Guggenheim, Tziona Gerstein and Zeev Druckman.
The first issue of Perspective - the New Architects Association journal - has come out; its editors, architects Oszvaldo Stav and Gavriela Nussbaum, formerly edited 'Section A-A'. The association, whose official, rather cautious title is 'Society of United Architects in Israel', was established following the continued deterioration of the position of architects in the Association of Engineers and Architects, which was controlled by engineers. The starting line was crossed with an editorial published by Architecture of Israel in Issue #29, denouncing the censorship of 'Section A-A' and called for total dissociation from the odious entity which represented everything that architects should reject - that is, the reinforcement of other areas of planning at the expense of architects status and daily living. In the last year, the Architects Association was left out of the decision-making processes of the Association of Engineers and Architects management, had no coordinator and no direct mailing lists. Its permission to use the historic building at 200 Dizengoff Street was limited, and it was prevented from paying membership fees in international institutions (UIA, OMAR). Its professional activity was carried out in the offices of volunteer friends and at their expense. To date, most of the members of the Association of Engineers and Architects (900 architects) have joined the new Association, which is perceived by many as a golden opportunity to look after architects professional interests. What did the Rabbi of Bratzlav say? 'The most important thing is not to be afraid...'
The Old City of Akko (Acre), unparalleled in Israel, has become an abandoned dump in international terms. Nothing is left of the renewal work done there several years ago; yet the number of visitors is as large as the heaps of rubbish and rust. After photographs of the sites were sent to the Minister of Tourism, he replied that the situation is known, but the Akko Municipality is exclusively responsible for this subject (what, then, is he in charge of?). Moshe Davidovich, the Head of the City Appearance Division, thanked us for our interest and promised that they are making efforts to improve the situation and will continue to do so in future. Thank you, Mr. Davidovich. Say hello to the appearance of the old City for us... (S.S.)
Architect Israel Goodovitch, the Tel Aviv City Engineer, established a public committee - headed by the First Lady of Conservation, Nitza Szmuk - which re-examined the outline plan for preservation of buildings and historic sites, compiled by the municipality over a five-year period. The committee, which included architectural historian Prof. Alexander Tzunis, Dr. Micha Levin, contractor Reuven Peled and Adv. Yoel Kantor, sat for only a few days, with a view to giving the new City Engineer the legitimate right to re-examine all decisions regarding conservation of buildings in Tel Aviv. The main message was that, while the former trend was to conserve individual buildings, generally through the foolish practice of transferring construction permits from one place to another, the present policy involves the conservation of entire stretches of urban tissue. A contribution to this significant change was made by 'Architecture of Israel', Issue #34, which calls for canceling the plan to wipe out the Templar Colony of Sarona (Kirya) and examining alternatives enabling the conservation of the entire area, with its buildings, streets and greenery, which developed over more than a century.
The blue ceramic tile which decorated the round wall of The Performing Arts Center has been replaced by golden limestone plaster. Since the completion of the building in 1995, the wall, which for some reason reminded people of a public lavatory, had been an object of criticism, like other sections of the controversial building - irrespective of the argument 'Is it beautiful or not?' Architect Yaakov Rechters decision to replace the ceramic tile with blue plaster led to the search for and production of suitable plaster samples. The company selected for the job produced samples, guaranteed their quality, and was accordingly given the work. A moment before the implementation, it was found that the shade of blue was liable to fade, and it was agreed to compromise on another color. In architecture, color is a supreme value and an integral part of the quality of the building. If that wall, in the architects opinion, had to be blue, why did he agree to compromise? (Vehemence by Siona Shimshi)
The Baal Shem Tov bridge in Jaffa was recently completed by architect Tzvi Harel. The bridge connects two parts of an Arab neighborhood which a highway decided to split, perhaps in preparation for the transformation of Jaffa Port into an additional real estate site (Goodovitchs failure). As the bridge connects with the neighborhood in a personal and special way, I made the unprecedented decision to quote the architect: 'The story, as I knew it (or invented it), is about Potumkin , into whose hands the Czar deposited money in order to improve his lot in life. As Potumkin wasted the money on frivolity and extravagance, he asked the Czar to accompany him on a sailing trip down the Volga, after having erected on the hilltops facades resembling new, thriving villages. As the two sailed pleasurably down the river, Potumkin showed his ruler his achievements, having ensured that peasants would stand behind the facades and wave lovingly to their monarch. In the place where I was asked to design a bridge over Baal Shem Tov Street (and it was Baal Shem Tov who said Everything is in memory...), Jaffa comes to an end. At this point, above the divide, east and west can be seen together. On one side are the ruins of the Great Domain, whose hollow walls tell of Jaffas lost past; on the other are the new neighborhoods of Bat Yam. Using a 5% standard grade, I continued the unbroken silhouette of the neighborhood. Exterior became interior, entrance became exit, matter was transformed to vacuum and structure to text.'
Architect Gideon Powzner responds to the accusations of negligence hurled against the planners who did not install bars on school windows: 'In the legendary city of Chelm, known for its foolish wise men, there was a tailor called Yudel Needle. One day, Yudel Needle wanted to eat pancakes fried in butter on the holiday of Shavuot, just like the richest man in the village - but he did not have the money to prepare them. Yudel said to Gittel, his wife: Lets take your bridal chest with the wheels, make a slot on each side of the lid, and every morning, each of us will put a penny into his or her slot, so we will have money to buy butter for the Shavuot latkes (pancakes). On the first morning, Yudel put in a penny and so did Gittel. But the very next day, Yudel said to himself, Its enough that Gittel puts in a penny, and Gittel said to herself, Its enough that Yudel puts in a penny - and that was how they saved their money. When Shavuot came, they ceremoniously opened the bridal chest and found one dusty penny on one side and another penny on the other side. They attacked each other with curses and expletives; words soon gave way to fists, and eventually they both fell into the bridal chest, where they continued to fight, not noticing that the chest had begun to roll on its wheels and was soon rattling down the main street of the village, till it came to a halt at the gate of the house of study. How astonished the Rabbi and his students were to see a strange chest bursting through the door of the house of study, with weird noises coming out of it! One of the braver students finally opened the lid of the chest, and Yudel and Gittel were extricated from within and told their story. All the wise men of Chelm assembled, sat for seven days and seven nights, and finally agreed on five important decisions:
1. No bridal chest in any house in Chelm would be allowed to have wheels.
2. No houses in Chelm would be built without a raised threshold.
3. No house of study in Chelm would be built at the bottom of the street, but only at the top.
4. A gate and a fence were to be built around the Chelm house of study.
5. No poor people would be allowed to desire butter pancakes on Shavuot.
These decisions were recorded in the chronicles of Chelm, so that they would be observed throughout the generations until the coming of the Messiah.'
THE EDITORIAL BOARD REPLIES:
Does Architect Powzner have any objection to the Standards Institution of Israel using his letter to compose a standard for school window bars?
No end to nonsense: Like many other important subjects in our lives, architecture, too, is marketed by shameful means. Key expressions such as 'air flow directions' have been replaced by 'prestige directions' (!). The problem is that, in all these prestigious advertisements, the name of the one who did the dirty work is missing. Why cant the new Architects Association take this matter seriously enough to file a class action requiring the name of the architect to be printed in large letters in every advertisement?