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The Rich Tapestry of Jerusalem Architecture

When I lived in the United States, I enjoyed the variety of architecture found in my neighborhood. Typically, the homes were colonial houses with their symmetrical front facades and accented doorways, split level homes with staggered floors, one-story ranch houses, and enchanting Tudors with pitched roofs, herringbone brickwork and touches of medieval architecture.

Upon moving to Israel, we quickly realized that the architecture found in the capital is unusually diverse. In the Old City, one encounters some buildings from literally thousands of years ago, but most of Jerusalem’s structures have been built over the past 150 years.

Until 1860, almost all of Jerusalem’s residents lived in the Old City. As the population grew and the Old City became overcrowded, new neighborhoods - known as the “New Yishuv” - were built. The architecture of the New Yishuv is generally divided into three periods: The Ottoman Period covering the second half of the 1800s, the British Mandate period from 1917 to 1948, and the 65-year period since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

The Russian Compound The Russian Compound (Photo: CC-BY-SA Shaul1, Wikipedia)

Architecture during the Ottoman Period is varied: There are several ornate buildings such as the Russian Compound, with its strong Byzantine architectural influence, which was built in the early 1860s to serve the many Russian pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem. However, many buildings constructed during this period had simple pastoral-themed architecture. A fine example is the German Colony, which was established in 1873 by a German Protestant sect called the Templars. They built a colony similar to villages in Germany, comprised of one- and two-story farmhouses with green shutters, red tile roofs and fenced-in gardens, using local Jerusalem stone instead of the traditional wood and brick materials.

 Bauhaus building - King George St. (Photo: Gedaliah Borvick)

During the British Mandate period, starting in the 1930s there was a strong emphasis on Bauhaus-inspired International Style, a form of Modernism which was based on functionality, emphasized by clean lines and no unnecessary decorations. A major reason for this design was based on its low construction cost. Nevertheless, some ornate houses with Renaissance, Moorish and Armenian architectural motifs were built in the more affluent neighborhoods.

Ever since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, Post-Modern architecture has developed as the style of choice in Jerusalem. Post-Modern architecture utilizes elements of Functionalism while integrating historical styles such as arches, columns and domes. Post-Modernism has served as a link between the minimalism of Modernism during the British Mandate period and the ornate designs which were in vogue during the Ottoman Empire.

Post-Modern Architecture Post-Modern: Supreme Court (Photo: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Imagine how delighted I was to see the following advertisement which covered a broad spectrum of Jerusalem architecture:

Properties For Sale:

1. Apartment in restored Bauhaus building in Rechavia: 3-room 70 sqm unit with high ceilings.

2. Luxury 3 bedroom 138 sqm apartment in the new Baka project. Quiet and pastoral setting, luxurious interior design. 

3. 700 year old Old City home from the Mamluk Period. 225 sqm on two levels, 6 rooms, high arched ceilings, interior courtyard, private roof with beautiful views of the Cardo.

What a great reminder that Jerusalem is truly the eternal city.

Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at gborvick@gmail.com. 

2013-11-19 12:25:57



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