The Flaw of the Opponent, Architect Eli Armon

The Flaw of the Opponent


'Here to the right is my little corner', says architect Eli Armon. 'Here I am receiving a black belt in karate... here I am awarded Lieutenant Colonel... theres a letter from a Beer Sheva resident praising the planning of the train station and…sounds vain?'

A visit to the offices of Eli Armon, former Beer Sheva City Engineer, reveals a naive architect who expresses himself with the enthusiasm of a student of architecture. A tour of his buildings only strengthens the feeling that the man is a unique phenomenon within the professional milieu. His detailed explanations cause one to constantly reassess the man. The important public structures he has designed always reflect a poetical theme that is clearly related to the buildings function. Each of his structures stands out in its surroundings, yet always feels as if it has sprouted from the ground.

Why was it important to you to show me the black belt in karate?

“Because it is part of my life philosophy. The martial arts of the East are based on wisely using your opponents flaw. Once you find it you are able to use it to your advantage. This necessitates studying and listening cool-headedly. You must be able to see the 'white of the eyes', to smell the sweat and listen to the heartbeat. No cutting corners permitted, you must stay lucid and never surrender. All this is performed in the guise of an honorable ceremony, where an instrumental part is the traditional bow, a gesture that pays respect to your opponent. The same is true in architecture - there is nothing nobler than paying respect to buildings designed by others, even if you dont like them. This principle appears in all my buildings, and without it the building loses it character and strength, and 'man is a piece of the land and the form of his native landscape'.

What does Tcharnichovsky have to do with it?

“If architecture is a library and every building is a story, the streets are the shelves and architects are poets. The interrelation between matter and mind is a complex process - you never know what stems from what.

How do you write the story of a building?

“I listen to the heartbeat of the place, acknowledge the frequency of resonance, and write the story. Then the building undergoes the long process of ripening, and 'like the tree in the field, it takes time for fruit to ripen', it starts with an idea or geometric form, then its put in the pot to cook over time.

During the tour in a silver Volvo traveling at the speed of light, terms like purpose, connection, disjunction and germination were thrown in the air; basic concepts in architecture that describe the relationship of man to his environment - all are poetically expressed in each of his buildings.

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