Depositing Your Ego Aint Easy

Depositing Your Ego Aint Easy

CHAT WITH TZADIK AND ELIE ELIAKIM           

Architecture, having deteriorated to the state of just another design discipline, has raised concerns about the architects social role. The professional sector today consists of a few idols, and a large group of worshippers, who - whether relevant or not - blindly recycle their architectural components. Within the frame of this troublesome milieu, I met with architects Tzadik and Elie Eliakim.

When we visited the Rubanenco Center for Handicapped in the Ramat Hahayal industrial zone, I wondered what it took for the municipality to let you position such a homey building amidst the pretentious hi-tech surrounding ones.

If youre hinting that the building stands out for its modesty, we accept that as a compliment. Today architects are making every effort to convey uniqueness in order to position their individual world-views at the core of their creations. However, when dealing with a structure that must meet particular needs, one must simply deposit ones ego. Though were as up-to-date as we would like to be, we make every effort to avoid producing a "branded" architecture. In order to do so, we are committed to starting every project from point zero, without recycling ready-made solutions, especially such that might vanish once the "attractive" buildings are out of fashion.

Assuming branded architecture consists of elements that have withstood the test of time, how do you select the wheat from the chaff? Obviously you are not constantly reinventing the wheel…

Starting from point zero does not necessarily mean beginning from nothing. The point is that every aspect of our project has to go through all of the planning stages - beginning with learning everything there is to know about the subject, understanding the programme, and identifying the important components of the context. Clearly we have gained experience in many fields, but the investigation stage enables us to form a more critical approach – to examine what needs improvement and to verify what is relevant. One of the more intriguing aspects of such an attitude is the ongoing dialog between the new project and our past experiences. We try to avoid quoting something in its entirety, but were not ashamed of adopting a few successful elements. This is what grants our work a creative flavor.

If everyone avoids quoting their surroundings, how can we ever formulate an agreeable planning code?

Everything is naturally a matter of measure. We are not exempt from the inclination to favor what we perceive as good or appropriate architecture, but are careful to maintain a sense of critique. The point is to filter out the relevant issues and to grant them, among other things, a stylistic expression. This is best demonstrated in conserved buildings; one must conserve what exists but at the same time maintain a measure of critique, otherwise one just disappears. In 113-115 Rothschild St, for instance, we tried to integrate the 1930s building with the extensions on the upper floors. We wished to sustain the minimalist code of the International Style, but did not hesitate to use new materials.

How then can one identify your style in the buildings narrative?

There are typifying components in different projects of the same office which can be identifiable. We simply prefer to focus more on the content than on the form. In other words, our stylistic expressions are mostly identifiable at the level of the planning language, that is - whatever in our opinion represents the important values of the programme.

Can you elaborate on words that comprise your planning language? Are they consistent, or do they change from one project to another?

Our language evolves just like any other process. The vocabulary improves and changes, and whatever doesnt withstand the test of time, disappears. Lets take for example two different buildings with almost the same problematic requirements – the one in Ramat Hahayal you referred to at the beginning of this conversation, the other - the Venezuela-Kalisher School for children with special needs, currently planned in Tel Aviv. Although the two are similar in their particular interpretations of the programme, they are not alike in form because each was intended for a different environment. The first deals with introducing a workplace with special needs into a commercial zone, while the school borders on a quiet residential area.

Im still having trouble grasping how this illustrates a process that begins at point zero? Do you avoid conveying accumulated knowledge from project to project?

Were referring to our personal interpretation of Adolph Loos concept of architecture reduced to zero. According to him, the encounter between the programme and the context is abstract and has no tangible form. That is, ideas have no specific physical configuration.

This approach is clearly expressed in our involvement in the development of the Tel Aviv port, where we preferred to interfere as little as possible with the relation between the buildings and their context, because the old structures best express the history of the place. Hence, architectural efforts were centered on emphasizing the balance in the unique fiber, which has withstood the test of time and proximity to the sea. In terms of the programme, the emphasis was on the "here and now", and not on grandiose plans that may or may not succeed. So far, the success of the project speaks for itself.





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