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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
III 1970 - 1980
The Jewish Quarter of the Old City
  By 1969, Yehuda Tamir, who had left the Ministry of Housing, was put in charge of a number of Development Projects in Jerusalem.  Amongst these was the Renewal of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.  He invited me to participate in the work of its rehabilitation, much of which was restoring existing buildings, and putting in new infrastructure that had deteriorated over the 19 years of Jordanian rule over the Old City.

     I was given two projects; one was what might be called 'an urban in fill'. It was located on a vacant site, which was called 'the hill of the Kara’im'.  I was asked to plan a small cluster of some 35 dwelling units, a kindergarten and some shops, within the overall restoration plan prepared by the Chief Architect of the Old City, Ehud Netzer, who was also an archeologist, and later on under the direction of the architect Shalom Gardi.  During the excavation work for the foundations, an important archaeological find was revealed, and this little project turned out to be a very unique architectural experience.  The second project was a major piece of urban planning;- a large car park under a new entrance that I was asked to design for the Jewish Quarter.   I had already established two offices in Jerusalem, one for the C.B.D. and the other for East Talpiot, but to execute these projects in the Old City, I considered it essential to carry out the planning on the site. So I found a suitable old building with a domed interior and installed there one of my senior architects, David Mitchell to oversee the complex process of design and construction.

   To get to the Jewish Quarter in the Old City from my big office at No. 10 Shamai Street, you would have to drive down Jaffa road past the Italianesque building, in which I worked so many years before with Klarwien on the Government Centre.  You would then pass opposite the Central Post Office, which was designed by the British architect Austin Harrison.  It is a building, magnificent in its volumetric simplicity and the beautiful texture of its fine stonework; black basalt with heavy 'taltish' finish on the lower floor, and a smoother cream and gray coloured stone above.  The elegant proportions of its facades are quietly impressive.  Next to it, is a building by Eric Mendelsohn designed in the late thirties for the Anglo Palestine Bank. It is quite untypical of the master, but still recognizable, as Mendelsohn by a subtle horizontality, achieved not by his usual continuous strips of windows, but by small individual ones, with strange decorative metalwork escutcheons that alternate between them. Seeing them obliquely, walking along Jaffa Road, they cunningly present a ‘Mendelsohnesq’ series of black horizontal strips.  Building next to Harrison's Post Office, he obviously felt the need to relate to it.  Here Mendelsohn was magnanimous in not trying to outshine the neighbouring building.  With deft sophistication, he complimented Harrison's great rectangular volumes, by placing two smaller blocks next to it; the higher one on Jaffa Street and the smaller volume sensitively kept at the same height of the surrounding buildings of the lower street. It was an urban gesture, expressing Mendelsohn's intrinsic architectural good manners and his innate urban design skill. Inside his building,  the Banking Hall is a glorious double-height space with mezzanine  offices

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