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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
IV 1980 - 1990
A Sad Tale of Good Intentions
   Most of my planning and architectural projects by extraordinary good fortune were eventually built and only some very few have remained unrealized.  Surprisingly it was such a very small one that caused me a lot of anguish and reminded me again of Joseph Slyper's parable of the 'Mountain of Real Estate'.  My official clients for this modest project were three youngish ex-air force officers; all very nice chaps. Their firm was involved in ‘project co-ordination and supervision’, (an androgynous profession, which had sprouted up as a result of the inadequate practical and administrative experience on the part of many present day architects, and planners). I was asked to prepare a design for a small shopping centre located in a new neighbourhood in a small town within the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv.  The site was extremely problematic; - a left over space, after the layout of the housing had been completed.  (Ironically it was the result of what I judged to be the poor planning on the part of the same Haifa architects who had let me down so miserably in the Ben Gurion neighbourhood in Sderoth).

     I had persuaded my clients, who represented the neighbourhood residents, that what they needed was not an enclosed mini shopping mall, as they had originally thought, but a small public piazza surrounded by some individual commercial units such as a mini-market, some small specialized shops, a cafe and a Bank.  One of the difficult planning problems, as is often the case in commercial projects of this sort, was how to provide sufficient parking places economically, functionally and aesthetically.  We managed to solve this problem and designed a little cluster of buildings, which I believed could transform a difficult leftover site into a lively urban place. It could become a place where the youth of the neighbourhood could ‘hang out’ and the young children could play in safety while the older folks might enjoy each other's company, sitting outside in the cafe in the cool of the evening or doing a bit of late-night shopping.

     We propoded a more advanced design approach for the construction of this project by using a modular ‘dry building system’. The structural frame would be assembled from pre-shaped laminated wood columns and beams, joined together by stainless steel flanges. Both the external and internal walls would be faced with easily maintained self coloured panels, made from ‘Trespas’, a new hard surfaced composite material (supposedly anti-vandal and scrafito proof) The colonnades would be roofed over with similarly pre-formed translucent sheets, suspended from the structure and incorporating an automatic water cleaning system.  We had adopted a simple platonic geometry for the design of the different units; octagonal for the cafe and the bank and orthogonal for the small shops and a mini-market, which would permit flexibility for varying  sub- division between these two functions over time.  The sanitation unit would consist of pre-fabricated ‘pods’, which could be ‘plugged-in’ according to changing requirements. We decided to face the sloping roofs of the buildings with copper sheeting, adding a bright colored geometric complexity to the projects visual appearance. Although distinguishing it from the surrounding red tiled roofed housing, it would nevertheless be harmonious with the neighbourhood’s domestic scale.

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