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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
V 1990 - 2002
The Seligsberg Community Sports Hall

We had finished the main part of Comprehensive High School of East Talpiot some few years’ back.  Now we were asked to add yet another ‘movement’ to what I was beginning to believe might remain ‘an unfinished symphony’. Only now would we be able to build its Sports Hall, which would also serve the neighbourhood's community. 

    Buildings in Jerusalem must be clad in stone.  No building material could be of greater contrast to the steel and glass fabric of our previous project in the Haifa Container Port.  I was happy to be back again designing in the very special architectural vocabulary that the material of stone requires. For, every type of stone has its geological and geographical origin; its own name and address. The stone we had originally used for the Seligsberg School was a very special one. Years ago I had scoured the entire area around Hebron until I had found the lovely honey-coloured one that I wanted. Now I had to find again the quarry where I could get a sufficient quantity for the Sports Hall.  Luckily I had on my team a first-rate supervising engineer for this building. He proved himself immediately by solving this problem, and the design work could get under way. 

      The Sports Hall was to accommodate a full sized basketball court including seating for 600 spectators, as well as athletic clubrooms.  This implied a structure with a cubic volume of some 30 meters on 30 meters by 20 meters high; a comparatively large lump of a building compared to the smaller scale of the different existing elements of the High School itself.  This new addition should also express its architectural individuality as a community facility for the neighbourhood's residents, and not just as an appendage to the existing educational complex.  Its location within the overall composition had already been decided.  It was quite a unique site, located on the axis of the valley between the two built up ridges of East Talpiot.  Standing on the future entrance to the Sports Hall, I couldlook down the valley, then upwards towards Herodian, the majestic artificial mountain upon the apex of which King Herod had perched his palace some 2000 years ago.  This critical vector it seemed to me, required the creation of a visual dialogue between the ‘Hill’ and the ‘Hall’, some equivalent gesture of monumentality.  But it was the clumsy volume that the programm dictated which was my first concern.  I thought of the church buildings of the early Renaissance, also ungainly cubic volumes, and how Alberti and later Paladio, amongst other architectural innovators of the Renaissance, had manipulated their facades to produce a visual music of harmonious proportions. I unashamedly took down my edition of ‘The Four Books’, and puled out my disintegrating copy of Wittkower’s ‘Architectural Principals in the Age of Humanism’.  Perusing again these books, I enjoyed the remembrance of the many hours which I had spent in the dusty library of the Manchester School of Architecture in the late 1940's, and the sing song litany of Prof. Cordingly, explaining to us exactly how these giants of aesthetics had created their magic symphonies in stone.  Had this Sports Hall not been built at all, it would have been still a pleasure to have spent those few days of research into times past, both of mine and of Alberti's; two complex dimensions of memory.

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