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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
V 1990 - 2002
The Master Plan for Sderoth

  To make me realize the profundity and relevance of Henry Churchill’s words, the next commission we received was for the preparation of a Master Plan.  Ironically it was for the existing town of Shderot, where, some few years before I had been involved in the planning of the Ben Gurion neighborhood.  The clients this time consisted of the combined forces of the Ministries of the Interior, Housing and the Government Lands Authority. It was an awesome alliance, like the three-headed dog, Cereberus - guarding the gate, not in this case of the nether- world, but more likely that of the Ministry of Finance, which was not entirely different.   I wondered why they had chosen me to carry out this particular work. Maybe someone in the Ministry of Housing felt that I should receive a belated compensation for the misery I had to suffer during the poor execution of the ‘Ben Gurion’ neighbourhood in this town. It turned out to be more like adding insult to injury. 

   The time was 1998, a time of deepening economic recession in Israel, which considerably reduced the workload in our office.  This however gave me more time to involve myself personally at every detailed stage of this complex work. It also allowed me to expand its scope and undertake an historic overview of the original planning of New Towns in Israel, as well as clarifying my present philosophy of urban planning.  Sderot was not originally a town, which I had myself planned, my active involvement had been in the relatively recent design of the Ben Gurion Neighbourhood.  In this project, as I have previously described, I had tried to create a very different urban environment to those that had existed previously in Sderoth.  It was another example of my ‘built criticism’, which I still considered to be my 'historic' role as an urban planner in Israel. But now I would have the opportunity to carry out a broader re-evaluation of the entire town's existing urban fabric.  Most of all, I hoped to be able to correct some of the mistakes which had been made during the early period of town planning in Israel, particularly those which had affected Sderoth's social and economic development; a vestige of the town's sad experience in the problematic absorption of new immigrants soon after the establishment of the State.

   To carry out a Master Plan for a town requires a preliminary period of survey, seriously studying the facts on the ground both in their human dimensions as well as the physical superstructure of the town itself.  Although I included in my team a sociologist and an economist to investigate the socio-economic profile of the existing population, I was reluctant to relinquish entirely ‘the pleasure’ of personally engaging in a dialogue with the towns’ residents.  An early experience however indicated the nebulous results of such spontaneous investigations.  For example, quite accidentally my son Ehud and I struck up a conversation with a resident of Sderoth, whose house was located on the town’s periphery, some 20 meters from a national highway.  We stood with him outside his front door, straining to hear what he had to say against the intermittent zooming noise of the cars speeding along the highway.  “What do you particularly like about Sderoth”, I shouted to him.  His answer floored both of us. “The quietness,” he said, “it is such a nice quiet town".

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