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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
IV 1980 - 1990
Kibbutz Ze'elim
In an uncanny twist of history,and in a similar way that it happened with the planning of Kibbutz Gonen twenty years before, a young member, this time from Kibbutz Ze'elim in the southern part of the country, asked me to come down to see the way thier kibbutz had been planned.  Their problems were in many ways surprisingly similar to those of Kibbutz Gonen.  Their existing housing had the same type of ‘military layout’, planned by the Jewish Agency Technical Department,in the early fifties and their kibbutz also lacked the nucleus of a recognizable centre of social activity, which they believed could be solved by building a new Dining Hall.  Working in my office at that time, was an architect who had previously had experienced a serious nervous breakdown, due to a conflict with his previous partner about the professional credit for the design of an office tower which he felt was his own personal creation.   A common friend of mine had asked me to take him into our office for a short period of time, in order that he might recuperate and get back to his old self.  His name was Yitzhak Hashman. He found with us, I believe, a warm and friendly group of people to work amongst.  Happily his attitude to architectural design was close to ours, and the short time that he was with us was one of professional and personal harmony.  Sadly I could not convince him to 'walk away' from his previous conflict, which was already in the hands of lawyers.  I believe however, that when he left us to set up his own practice, it was with renewed confidence and a professional enthusiasm that he had rediscovered while working in our office.  Some months later we were shocked to hear that he had died of a heart attack, he was only 49 years old.  I honestly believed that he had died of a broken heart, for not having received the credit he felt was his due for 'the paternity' he claimed for the design of his office tower.   His stay in our office coincided with the work we did for Kibbutz Ze'elim and he deserves credit for the contribution he made to this project.

    Unlike Gonen, the site of this kibbutz was completely flat, and there was no beautiful view like the Hullah Valley at the foot of the hill where Kibbutz Gonen was located. We had to invent such a visual tension ourselves for Ze'elim.  By observing the existing pathway system from the housing to the old Dining Hall, we discovered a somewhat distorted radial network of 'cow paths'.  We rehabilitated this rough star shape into a more formal radial geometry.   Along some of the radials we distributed small linear groups of new residential buildings in the form of 'fish bones', and at the centre of the radials we placed the Communal Dining Hall itself.

    There are distinctly two different functions in this type of building, as Louis Kahn defined it, 'the server and the served': the kitchen with its accompanying stores and cold storage, at one side and the dining hall itself at the other.  The kitchen, an entirely functional element, required an orthogonal layout. The dining hall however could be advantageously adapted to the context of the radial geometry of the pathways. Our observation of the way the kibbutzniks used the old dining hall indicated that in the early morning, relatively few people sat down there for breakfast, but at the lunch time break it would be almost full.

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