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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
I 1950 - 1960
The Israeli Housing Department
   The bright light of our flat, the view of the sand dunes from our balcony and the noisy chattering of our neighbours on all sides, was such a contrast to the dark brick facades on the other side of Marylebone Road, the leafy green beauty of Regent's Park and the soft discreet `Good morning' and `Good evening' of the anonymous couple next door in’Manor House’.  At least we had enjoyed a week of seclusion during the boat voyage, cushioning the shock of moving from one environment into a very different one. How much more wrenching it is today, when within five hours flight you must adapt yourself to such drastic emotional and physical changes.

    Many of my immigrant friends from the offices in which I had worked were surprised that I had returned to Israel at all. When I had previously told them that I was going away for a year, they smiled kindly at what they must have considered to be an uncharacteristic duplicity on my part.  Now they asked, “What happened?  It didn't work out?  Why not the U.S.A.?”  I didn't have the heart to tell them about the highly paid position that I had turned down in Singapore. Their longing for an easier life was understandable, because life really was difficult in those days for a small family in Israel.  Now I would have to go back to one and a half jobs, but as my work was my pleasure, that was not so bad. The spirit of the young state was still vibrant. I enjoyed the informality of behaviour and at least some slight effort was being made in those days to create an egalitarian society. It was sufficient compensation for the day to day difficulties. I was convinced that the country would develop in the coming years and with it the opportunities for me to take on an active role in the creation of a new and better urban environment.

   For several months I worked in the office of a small team of Architects and Engineers. One of the architects, Teddy Kisilov, became a very close friend. He was a most colourful fellow, bearded and of ample girth; he looked like Henry the Eighth and had a regal personality to match it. The main job in the office was the planning of Eilat, the southernmost port town of Israel on the shores of the Red Sea. The town was surrounded by an extravagantly dramatic background of red, brown, purple, and mauve coloured mountains, descending steeply on to the white sandy beach along the shore of the Red Sea, which was bright blue. It was a landscape as exaggerated as the heat in summer, which reached over 40 degrees centigrade in the shade. We used to drink water from the hot tap, as the water in the cistern was cooler than that from the cold tap whose pipes were exposed to the heat of the sun.  I worked on the design of the first Hotel to be built in Eilat. It had two floors built above an open area and supported on tall tapered columns, (Corb’s ground floor ‘piloties’ of his Unite’d’habitation in Marseilles had not been forgotten). You could see the bright blue sea through the building, just like the trees of Calderstones Park in my childhood dream.  I had experimented for the first time with sun breakers, which by lowering the light level inside the building created a sense of coolness as well as reducing the penetration of the solar heat. Arab houses achieved this by having only very small windows cut into their thick walls, but Israelis wanted to see out and be seen.

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