Page C1.1 . 04 October 2000                     
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    Preserving Jerusalem

    by Lili Eylon

    In Jerusalem, as in many old cities around the world, there is a constant need to balance the historic with the modern. Tens of civilizations have left their mark in this city during its 4000-year-old history. The inhabitants, after centuries of living within the city walls, began in the second half of the 19th century to move outside the walls.

    As the population grew, so did new building projects. In the process, before the value of cultural heritage became fully appreciated, many ancient structures were destroyed. The questions historic cities face today: what to preserve, what to restore, and what to demolish?

    In 1998, the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem mounted an exhibit entitled, "Why Buildings Do Not Fall." Aimed mainly at young people, with hands-on displays, the show demonstrated what types of construction are most likely to withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters. New construction is usually adapted to meet many of these dangers.

    But what about man-made disasters—the deliberate destruction of buildings or sites with architectural, historical, religious, or ethnographic significance that are part of a people's cultural heritage? Such calamities are usually less publicized than earthquakes, but whether major or minor, they are just as irreversible.

    There are plenty of parties to share the blame: entreprenurial developers, an unaware public, and a municipality whose sensitivity is frequently blunted by the desire to increase its income, modernize the city, and adapt to growth.

    The Case for Preservation

    At the same time, in Israel as in many countries, many people believe that old buildings ought never to be demolished, but rather preserved, restored, and revitalized. In Jerusalem, such people are talking about structures contributed by many nationalities, giving the city's urban fabric its unique coloring.

     

    Continue...

    ArchWeek Photo

    The old Shaarei Zedek Hospital was built in the mid-19th century. Since this picture was taken, the building has been reconstructed, with the facade left as is, to serve as home to the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
    The Jerusalem Municipality

    ArchWeek Photo

    Once a Turkish caravanserai, today the Khan has been revitalized as a popular theatr and bar.
    The Jerusalem Municipality

     

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