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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
III 1970 - 1980
Jerusalem Central Business District

At the same time that I was starting to plan East Talpiot, I became involved in other projects in Jerusalem. The first was the development plan for the Central Business District of Jerusalem. I had been asked by Teddy Kollek to put in a proposal for this very unusual commission. At that time, the Municipality did not have an Urban Design Department and they wanted a private architect to set up such a unit within his own practice, and after two and a half years hand it over with its entire working staff to the city.  These years would be taken up with the preparation of a Development Plan for the Central Business District of the united Jerusalem, a work sponsored by both the Ministry of Transport together with the Municipality.  I sat with Mike Turner, one of my senior planners one evening and worked out a budget which I considered would cover the time required to be invested in the project by my own staff and the many other professional consultants.  I came up with what I thought was a huge sum of money.  For the hell of it, I posted off my offer the following morning.  A week later the city Engineer, Eliezer Yaffe, phoned me to say that I had got the job.  I was shocked, but not as shocked as I would to be in two and a half years time, when the budget came to an end and I had to carry on one additional year to complete this exceedingly complex assignment.  The project required that I should establish yet another office, this time in the heart of the business district itself.  I still had my Tel Ganim office near Tel Aviv and a site office in the old city of Jerusalem, so it was not surprising that the last organizational change I made was to employ a driver to whisk me from one office to the other, and the many meetings that these works engendered.  My driver, whose name was Izick, had just finished his army service during which he had been a driver for a Brigadier General.  He was a wizard of a driver and a fine fellow, sensitive to my occasional spasms of fraying nerves and frustration and cheerfully encouraging when that was required. I would have dispensed almost with any one of my architects, but without Izick, 'I would not have made it'. 

    Although the office in 10 Shamai Street was in the centre of the city, with tall new buildings leaning threateningly around it, ours was a lovely two story stone building, built towards the end of the nineteenth century.  The ceiling of my room was four meters high.  The layout was strictly symmetrical and I sat at my drawing table with my back to a huge window, opposite a door, which led into a room of the same size as mine.  I felt like a great affendi, which in a way I was.  I think my little secretary, Miriam, felt lost in her big room, but there were always plenty of people milling around her;- Contractors, Developers, minor and major Politicians, Consultants of every shape and size. They all waited for a word with his majesty. At first it was great fun, but not for long.

   After the Six-Day War, things had begun to buzz in sleepy Jerusalem. There was a rising immigration from Western countries and many wanted to settle in Jerusalem.  Homes and office space was becoming scarce. There were few empty plots in Central Jerusalem and with the increasing demand for land, its costs were rising. 

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