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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
I 1950 - 1960
Finding Work in Jerusalem

  As a new immigrant to Israel, the most important issue for me at the time was with whom to work and in which town. At Manchester University one of my teachers was Clifford Holliday, who had been one of the two senior architects working for the British Government during the period of its Mandate in Palestine (Austen. B. Harrison was the other). Clifford Holliday had told me about the modern architecture in Palestine, a country he dearly loved. He reluctantly had left the country a year before the British Mandate in Palestine ended. He had already told me about several of the younger Jewish Architects who had worked either in his office or in the Public Works Department of the Mandatory Government under Austin Harrison. Clifford Holliday also knew personally several of the established Jewish architects who were active in the country at that time. Amongst them was Richard Kauffmann, whom he considered to be one of the most talented Town Planners, as well as a sensitive architect who had already built a substantial body of work since his emigration from Germany in the early twenties. It was on Clifford Holliday’s recommendation that I had first visited Richard Kauffmann the previous year and had joined him in his walks around Jerusalem with his bad tempered bulldog,[ which only barked in German]. It was then that I learnt something about the architectural politics of Israel.

   Kauffmann's clients were primarily from Public Institutions and, as I was to learn myself in some few years time, commissions generally came through personal contacts with people with whom one had some degree of a common background.  During the pre-state period, Kauffmann's contacts were therefore mostly amongst the intellectual elite of the ‘German speaking’ Zionists.  With the establishment of the State, the political power centre moved almost exclusively towards the East European Zionists, originally from Poland and Russia. The previous year, when I first met Kauffmann in his office, I had studied his town planning projects and went with him to see his buildings.  He told me then that when I had finished my studies I should visit him again and maybe he would be able to offer me a permanent job.

  So it was, that this second time, I set my sights on Jerusalem and his office. In my judgment Kauffmann was one of the most professionally talented architects whom I had previously met. What did I know then? Surprisingly I must have known something, for even today after fifty years of professional experience I still consider him to be one of the finest Israeli Architects and Town Planners that the country has produced. 

    I presented myself again at his small home-office in Abarbanel Street in Rehavia, the neighbourhood, which he himself had planned in Jerusalem. It was in the late autumn of 1951 that I knocked on his front door, when he opened it, I saw that he was already dressed to go out.  Would I join him on one of his daily walks, this time to North Talpiot to see his good friend the writer Agnon who lived there? I obligingly tagged along with him and his aging but still aggressive bulldog.


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