IDF Building Center Encourages Creativity

The canteen as a IDF Building Center encourages creative architecture in camps simile

Delving into the professional activity of one of the largest bodies in the Israeli building market may be construed as ?favoritism?, and for good reason. While it focuses upon building in the military camps, the IDF Building Center is also one of the most influential bodies in Israeli architecture. The reason is that, in order to conduct its various roles, the Center has to hire civilian architects, who are a conduit for an exchange of knowledge and experience between the military and the civilian market.

The purpose of this article is to give a glimpse into the creative architecture produced beyond the fence. The Building Center is an administrative/ engineering body whose job it is to control all of the building activity of the ground forces of the IDF. As an administrative body, the Center is in charge of examining the comprehensive needs and budget estimates, subject to the IDF restrictions and dictates. As a professional body, the Center defines the standards regarding each type of structure, from building materials to the area needed for every function, according to purpose and dimension.

As the very same body that dictates the restrictions, supervises the planning, and oversees the building implementation, the Center is obliged to provide efficient, reasonable and tested solutions. The key term is ?centralization? - with all its positive and negative aspects. In this context, the natural aspiration is for optimal standardization. However, due to a better understanding that the military camps are used by thousands of people, who spend most of their time there working, training, eating, sleeping, praying, and at leisure, the Center is nowadays open to a high degree of creativity.

This creativity is naturally manifest in buildings addressing the welfare needs, such as synagogues, clubs, gyms and canteens, yet its influence is already prominent in other buildings as well - offices, operations structures, dwellings, and services. In this context, it is important to note that, while private entrepreneurs tend to look for cheap solutions whose failing function is paid for ultimately by the user - at a dear maintenance cost - the IDF is perhaps the only entrepreneur that has to take into account the functioning of the building over a long period, efficiently and economically.

The practical meaning of this is that the Center and its civilian architects cannot afford to overlook important aspects of architecture, such as maintenance, compatibility and - most importantly - climate.

At the head of the Building Center today stands Col. Ofra Rahav, a postgraduate architect with an open mind free of anachronistic paradigms. A commander who believes that military buildings convey educational value as well, ??since army service is an experimental workshop, where young people form their attitude toward society with all its ramifications, among them architecture?. Within the framework of the IDF Building Center, it is worth mentioning the blessed activity of the Aguda Lema?an Hachayal (the Association for the Soldier?s Well-being), which takes care of most of the welfare buildings in the army, together with the FIDF (Friends of Israeli Defense Forces), whose donations help finance the immense building momentum taking place today in the military camps.

Heading the ALH planning department is architect Ramy Yogev, who greatly contributes to the advancement of creative planning, samples of which are shown on the following pages.

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