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'The Pyramid' Puts Jerusalem at Odds

Friday, September 4, 2015

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With a go-ahead from officials and ground broken for the site of a modern skyscraper in an ancient city, proponents and critics are at odds over both the shape and need of a “pyramid” in Jerusalem.

City officials say The Pyramid—a 345-foot stone and glass tower that will include luxury apartments and commercial tenants—will help revitalize the area, according to Architectural Record.

But critics have said adding more apartments to a city that gets foreign visitors for very short times each year will only increase the phenomenon that Jerusalem is a “ghost town.”

Vibrant Space, or Ghost Town?

“The Pyramid mediates between ancient traditions and myths, while providing a 21st-century reinterpretation of that great form,” said architect Daniel Libeskind in a statement to Architectural Digest. “The design complements the context and gives the neighborhood a vibrant public space in the heart of the ancient city.”

Studio Libeskind

A 345-foot skyscraper known as The Pyramid is planned to be built next to an ancient open-air market. Jerusalem scholars are concerned the building will create more "ghost apartments."

But David Kroyanker, an expert on Jerusalem architecture, told AR that the building’s success “depends a lot on the details, the finish.”

Kroyanker said he is concerned that the building, which will include both luxury apartments and affordable housing, will create more ghost apartments. Jerusalem has a high number of apartments that are owned by people who visit the country for just brief periods each year, the AR explains.

The pilgrimages to Jerusalem are part of the traditions of people who practice Judaism, and the city sees an increase in visitors each year during three important Jewish holidays: Passover, Tabernacles and Pentecost.

That’s one of the reasons Kroyanker is worried about building more housing in a city that has a lot of units empty for most of the year. His concerns were echoed by Ravit Hananel, a professor of urban planning at Tel Aviv University, who specializes in how housing policy affects society, AR said.

Hananel and one of her students studied the concept of ghost apartments in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Although Studio Libeskind described the project as becoming “an integral part of the neighborhood,” Hananel said she is worried that the building will reduce further the urban diversity of modern Jerusalem, AR said.

Plans Developing

Meanwhile, the 1.7-acre plot that formerly housed the Eden Cinema has already been demolished to make room for what will be the second-tallest building in the Israeli city. Work has begun on the site that is near the Mahane Yehuda open-air market, but it will not be completed for several years, Architectural Digest has said.

Even the architect’s own website said the project is still “in design,” and it’s a design that has changed several times since the project was made public in 2007, according to AR. The journal said Studio Libeskind chose the current design “to allow maximum light to fall on the public plaza below and to create ample open space surrounding the structure.”

In addition to the apartments, AR reports that the building will have a boutique hotel, a restaurant and a first-floor mall of upscale shops.

Pyramids in Jerusalem?

And while The Pyramid had been seen as an odd choice in a city that doesn’t have large ancient pyramids, architects recently discovered that the design might be fitting after all.

According to the Daily Mail, a 2,000-year-old pyramid-shaped platform was recently uncovered in the City of David National Park, which is close to the walls of old Jerusalem. The podium was next to a street that was used by pilgrims as they made their journeys to the temple during the period known as the Second Temple.

Reports indicate that the discovery and the project have no relation, and that archaeologists are still trying to determine how the pyramid platform may have been used.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Building design; Color + Design; Commercial / Architectural; Middle East; Modernism; Modernist architecture

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