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Monday, November 29, 2010

Rosh Ha'Ayin, The Immigrant Camp, Home: A Song


















נולדתי בראש העין

ניסים גרמה
מילים: דן אלמגור


נולדתי בראש העין
במחנה העולים בחורף קר
גדלתי בראש העין
בכל שבת לאן טיילנו? למבצר
פעם בשבוע היה לנו קולנוע
מטיילים ברוח חולמים על אופנוע
לא תענוג לגדול באוהל קר פרוץ למים
אך בליבי שמורה פינה חמה עדיין
לראש העין של ילדותי
יצאתי מראש העין
מצאתי עבודה היה לי קצת מזל
הרחקתי מראש העין
טיילתי בעולם עם להקת ענבל
איפה לא היינו לונדון, ריו, פאלו אלטו
מבצרים גדולים מזה של אנטיפטרוס
לא תענוג לגדול באוהל קר פרוץ למים
אך בליבי שמורה פינה חמה עדיין
לראש העין של ילדותי
נולדתי בראש העין
הוריי ואחיותיי גרים שם עד היום
כל פעם לראש העין
אני קופץ עם ילדתי לומר שלום
מחייכים אלי כולם: תראו מי בא, ניסים פה
יש חתן תנ"ך צעיר כולם כל כך גאים בו

לא תענוג לגדול באוהל קר פרוץ למים
אבל איפה אני מרגיש תמיד בבית
בראש העין של ילדותי
לא תענוג לגדול באוהל קר פרוץ למים
אבל איפה אני מרגיש תמיד בבית
בראש העין
בראש העין
בראש העין של ילדותי

Click Below for Audio

Sunday, November 28, 2010

British Military Huts and Sheds







Modern Rosh Ha'ayin is built on the site of the British RAF Ras el Ain military base. A number of distinctive-looking sheds still grace the city. Some are still in use for a variety of purposes, others are abandoned and some are ruined.

Starting with World War I, the British began using a variety of quickly-deployed military sheds. Chief among these were the Romney Hut and Nissen Hut. The US army adopted a similar style in their Quonset Huts. These structures made use of corrugated metal to form the hull of the building. The structures were poorly insulated, but provided quick shelter. Other designs developed for the home front, such as the Anderson Shelter (for a bomb shelter).

The aesthetic of the Rosh Ha'ayin buildings is similar to the other huts. However, the design is slightly more sophisticated. The metal only forms the roof, while the support walls are made of brick. Ridges at the top provide a small amount of lighting if properly oriented. I consulted with Paul Francis, author of British Military Airfield Architecture, but he did not recognize the form of the Rosh Ha'ayin buildings. It could be that they were the work of a local designer/architect and were only adopted here.


Ruin Criteria IV: Materials (and Time)

We tend to think of ruins as the remains of stone structures. Most likely this is because stone ruins are the most common type. Stone construction has been around for a long, long time, and stones tend to last, whereas wooden buildings decay and disappear more quickly, as do adobe brick structures and igloos. Perhaps partly due to our conditioning and partly because of an actual aesthetic superiority, stone ruins also seem to be particularly appealing.

Despite this predisposition to stone, ruins can actually result from just about any building material that can last long enough. Surprisingly enough, I'm not the first one to mention igloo ruins. While the example is silly, it illustrates my point about duration: ruins take time to develop. Depending on the harshness of the climate, twenty years is probably the bare minimum for anything remotely ruin-like. A material that is not durable enough to remain in existence for twenty plus years is therefore not going to turn into a ruin. Or, to think about it in terms of an igloo, it will become a ruin in five hours and have disappeared by ten. While elements of the revenge of nature do enter into the equation, the lack of time simply precludes this from being considered a ruin. Why does time matter? Perhaps because ruins symbolize a significant loss, and something that comes and goes in a day hardly seems significant. Perhaps it is because part of a ruin is its "continual transition caused by natural deterioration" (Paul Zucker, Fascination of Decay, p.2) and there is no continual transition in something that moves so quickly. Ruins are supposed to be "fragments of an earlier age," and 10 hours ago doesn't quite qualify.

So material does matter, but only until a certain threshold of durability. Beyond this border, there are far less limitations on ruin materials.

Chippewa Lake Park - Wooden ruins of a roller coaster.

















Adobe Ruins by Adam Schallau



















Log Cabin Ruins by John Wilson












Brick ruins in Detroit (from Ghostly Ruins by Harry Skrdla, p. 141)

















Steel Mill ruins in Bethlehem, PA

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ruin Criteria III: Incomplete


One reason why ruins tend to capture the imagination is that they provide room FOR imagination. A ruin must be partially incomplete, and this incomplete-ness provides the opportunity for us to imagine what may have once been there. Instead of being passive observers, we become active in recreating the past. Christopher Woodward writes:
"Each spectator is forced to supply the missing pieces from his or her own imagination and a ruin therefore appears different to everyone." (In Ruins p15)
Rose Macauley quotes Thomas Whately, stating that the effect of ruins on the imagination is profound:
"All remains excite an enquiry into the former state of the edifice, and fix the mind in a contemplation of the use it was applied to ... they suggest ideas which would not arise from the buildings if entire ... Whatever building we see in decay, we naturally contrast its present to its former state, and delight to ruminate on the comparison." (Thomas Whately, Observations on Modern Gardening, 1770, quoted by Rose Macaulay, Pleasure of Ruins, 29)
For ruins to properly activate the imagination, they must be incomplete enough to leave gaps, but show enough of the building to give us a hint. We can say that a certain percentage of a building must remain. Less than 100%, but more than 0%. Some walls, certainly. Windows and doorways are helpful.

Ozymandias and Ruins in Lord of the Rings

The recent posts about JB Jackson, and Shelley got me thinking about other examples of ruins as both a sign of decay and the potential for rebirth. It is almost cliche to quote Shelley's Ozymandias when talking about ruins, but what can I say - the poem works. Here it is:
"I met a traveler from an antique land / Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, / Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, / Tell that its sculptor well those passions read / Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, / The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. / And on the pedestal these words appear - / "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: / Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" / Nothing beside remains. Round the decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare / The long level sands stretch far away.'"
One famous story about collapse and redemption, though it is not often thought of as such, is JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The story tells, among other things, of how Mankind was once great but has fallen into decay, and the struggle to return Mankind to glory. Along their journey, the Fellowship sees many signs of this lost glory, usually in the form of ancient ruins. The movie captures some of these images beautifully, interwoven with nature. These stills aren't the best quality, but they still demonstrate the point nicely:

"But long before, in the first days of the North Kingdom, they built a great watch-tower on Weathertop, Amon Sul they called it. It was burned and broken, and nothing remains of it now but a tumbled ring, like a rough crown on the old hill's head. Yet once it was tall and fair. It is told that Elendil stood there watching for the coming of Gil-galad out of the West, in the days of the Last Alliance." (The Fellowship of the Ring, Hougton Mifflin Co, p. 181)







"'Behold Tol Brandir!' said Aragorn, pointing south to the tall peak. 'Upon the left stands Amon Lhaw, and upon the right is Amon Hen, the Hills of Hearing and of Sight. In the days of the grat kings there were high seats upon them, and watch was kept there.'" (p384)
"HE came to a path, the dwindling ruins of a road of long ago. In steep places stairs of stone had been hewn, but now they were cracked and worn, and split by the roots of trees." (p. 387)

Migdal Zedek's Inactive Quarries

The area of Rosh Ha'ayin is full of stone quarries, with a few remaining active to this day. These quarries provided much of the stone used in the construction of Tel Aviv and the center of the country. The stone is mostly soft chalk. The quarries are both north and south of the Migdal Zedek archaeological site and the former site of Majdal Yaba.

The quarries began in 1924, when Solel Boneh decided to build one in the area. The first 11 workers were mostly from the Third Aliya and mostly from Poland, known as the "Teitelbaum Group". They built wooden shacks and transported stone on rails to the main railway line. They were paid 35 grush per day. The workers hoped to establish a permanent workers' colony in the area, but after a year abandoned this dream. In 1925 "The 23", a group of about 50 olim connected the the HeChalutz movement, came to work in the quarry. They built additional structures and made it into more of a real settlement. Things progressed until competition made the business unprofitable and in 1928 this second group also abandoned the quarry. Only in 1931 did a group return. In 1932 a second Jewish quarry opened on land purchased from Majdal Yaba. At this time a 32 meter-tall quicklime furnace was built. The furnace was somewhat of a symbol, and appeared in drawings on the cover of the book HaEmda HaKidmit: Migdal Zedek Ba'avoda, baShmira, baMilchama by Mordechai Reicher and on the cover of the newsletter of Migdal Zedek guards.
Cover of newsletter published by Migdal Zedek Guards
Another version of the cover, showing Majdal Yaba in background


Quicklime Kiln
Destroyed Kiln. Photo from Mordechai Reicher's book, p44
At first the quarrymen had a good relationship with the Arab neighbors. In 1936 things became more tense and competing businesses resulted in price wars. There was considerable pressure to use "Hebrew Labor" and a number of attempts were made to expel the Arabs from the company. In 1936 one of the factories was destroyed and the furnace was toppled, so in November 1936 the site was rebuilt and guarded by the Hagana. This also caused Migdal Zedek to become more of a permanent settlement and less of a temporary camp. It also became somewhat of a training camp for the Hagana. Both Migdal Zedek and Majdal Yaba continued to grow until 1948, when the war began and Majdal Yaba was abandoned.

Over the years Migdal Zedek has been underdeveloped as a recreation site, and the quarries are even less developed. In 1978 Gavriel Gafni published a report on the subject of abandoned quarries for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who were anxious to utilize this open area. This was park of a national survey of abandoned quarries, but special attention was paid to Migdal Zedek because of its large area and proximity to the central metropolis. Ultimately two proposals were given, which noted that in Israel quarries are not reclaimed as is common in other countries. In the proposals, one suggestion is to locate heavy industries in the quarries, where they would be hidden from site. Another states that the parks can be turned into parks.

Dr. Avi Sasson produced an archaeological survey of Migdal Zedek in 2008, with the goal of turning it into a national park. A separate post will be devoted to the history of the archaeological site of Migdal Zedek, but Sasson writes that Migdal Zedek is one of the few sites in Israel where one can trace the development of the quicklime production. In the 1930s there was a modern quicklime furnace in the area, and some ruins of the concrete structure can still be found on site.

Quarries are certainly man-made, but not really structures. As such, it's hard to consider them ruins. However, it's still interesting to think about them as abandoned features which can undergo a variety of transformative processes and turned into something new. On the one hand, they can be left as they are. New uses can be built in their shadows. Or they can be landscaped and "erased." The blog Stories in Stones has an interesting entry about reuse of quarries, particularly for rock climbing enthusiasts. Other quarries have been flooded to provide swimming, snorkeling or even a marina. Still others now have zip lines (omegas) and mountain biking. As with ruins, I would imagine that leaving the quarries intact makes for a more memorable experience and a richer site.
Overall map of quarries, taken from Gafni
Gafni's Option A
Gafni's Option B

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ruin Criteria II: Vegetation

One of the most important aspects of a ruin is its vegetation. Ruins are the result of conflicting forces: the force of man, building structures and defying gravity, and the force of nature, eroding and returning things to equilibrium. Even a structure that is first destroyed by human force undergoes a transformation at the hands of nature. I suppose this is not an ironclad rule, as buildings become ruins immediately following their destruction; but until nature has had time to encroach, the ruin is not really complete. Florence Hetzler writes as much, saying that 
"The 'ruining' may be started by human or natural causes but the maturation process must be done by nature in ruin time. Otherwise there is only devastation and there is no unity forming the ruins." ("Causality: Ruin Time and Ruins" in Leonardo 21:1 (1988) pp51-55.) 
Christopher Woodward devotes a section in his wonderful book, In Ruins, to this topic. He points out the conflict between archaeologists and ruin-lovers. Archaeologists try to clear sites of their destruction vegetation. Woodward writes that 
"I want to tell them that a ruin has two values. It has an objective value as an assemblage of bring and stone, and it has a subjective value as an inspiration to artists. You can uproot the alder tree, superintendente, erect more fences, spray more weed-killer, excavate and polish. You will preserve every single brick for posterity, and analyse the very occasional discovery of a more ornamental fragment in a learned publication. You will have a great many bricks, but nothing more."
  He quotes Shelley who credited the ruins of Rome as the inspiration for Prometheus Unbound, and presents some examples of the artistic inspiration that Shelley derived from ruins:
"Never was any desolation more sublime and lovely. The perpendicular wall of ruin is cloven into steep ravines filled with flowering shrubs whose thick twisted roots are knotted in the rifts of the stones...the tick entangled wilderness of myrtle & bay & flowering laurustinus...& the wild figs & a thousand nameless plants sown by the wandering winds [forming a] landscape like mountain hills intersected by paths like sheep tracks."
Woodward finishes by stating emphatically that "If the archaeologists had arrived before Shelley there would be no Prometheus Unbound."

This obsession of ruin lovers is somewhat of a fetish. Gustave Flubert wrote in a letter:
"I love above all the sight of vegetation resting upon old ruins; this embrace of nature, coming swiftly to bury the work of man the moment his hand is no longer there to defend it, fills me with deep and ample joy." 
In one of the many fascinating anecdotes in Woodward's book, he describes a study by an English botanist, Flora in the Colosseum (1855). The study found more that 420 species of plants growing in the Colosseum, including trees, 56 types of grass, 41 types of peas, and many wild flowers. He writes that 
"Some flowers in the Colosseum were so rare in western Europe that the only explanation for their presence was that nearly two thousand years before their seeds had been scattered in the sand from the bodies of animals brought from the mountains of Persia or the banks of the Nile for the gladiatorial games." 
The botanist concludes that the plants, "tell us of the regenerating power which animates the dust of mouldering greatness." 

When it comes to the life of a ruin, there are two potential routes: if the building is actively destroyed, there is a period in which it is a ruin before nature invades. However, if the building is abandoned, then as nature moves in the building becomes a ruin. In the latter case, it is clear that invasive flora is a critical part of the ruin. In the former case, the vegetation still plays an important role, turning the site from a place of horror to an area with hazy memory, where the terror is less real and more distant. In a sense the vegetation helps with the healing process. In most cases, people prefer to see a ruin encrusted with vegetation than one that remains stark and real. Only when we wish for ruins to serve as a memorial do we keep them unencumbered by plant-life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ruin Criteria I: Dangerous?

This is the first in a series of posts that will address the central question of "What is a Ruin?"

There are many abandoned buildings within the built-up urban fabric of Jerusalem. Some of them are relatively new, some are in pretty good shape. Avid urban explorers might be tempted to sneak in and check them out - that's part of the fun of old, ruined buildings. To protect against this, abandoned buildings are often sealed off. However, sometimes the buildings pose enough of a danger that added warning is required, as in the President Hotel on Ahad Ha'am street. In the sign below, you can see this. I especially like the icon of the building collapsing.

Are ruins necessarily dangerous? I think that it's important that ruins be abandoned and that no one is taking care of them. I suppose this means that one day they will become dangerous. Let's say that the life cycle of a ruin begins when the building is abandoned, but only really gets moving once it becomes dangerous. That's when the structure starts to fail and the building starts to fall apart. However, on the other end, eventually the building collapses enough that it stabilizes and no longer poses a danger. According to this logic, a ruin doesn't necessarily have to be dangerous, but unless it either IS dangerous or HAS BEEN dangerous, it isn't really a ruin. Rather, it's just an abandoned building.

Modern Ruins - The British RAF Base Remains - Rosh Ha'Ayin

Watchtower on Ha'avoda in Old Industrial Area


Old Industrial Area, Ha'avoda 21








Old Industrial Area, Ha'avoda







On Shalom Mantzura, a British building converted into living quarters, separate units done up, yet parts of the building remain ruinous...

Shalom Mantzura









Old Industrial Area, Ha'avoda 17









Shalom Mantzura 19









Graffiti on Ruinous British Building, part of which is still in use for a tabacco factory, the graffiti says, 'Tehillim neged Tilim' - 'Psalms against Missiles', reflecting the religious persuasion of many of the original population of Rosh Ha'ayin.



Tobacco Factory Building, Shalom Mantzura 32


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

J.B. Jackson: The Necessity for Ruins

John Brinckerhoff Jackson was the founder of Landscape Magazine and an influential writer in the study of architecture and landscape. He taught at Harvard and Berkeley and helped turn landscape architecture into an academic field.  His essays relate mostly to the United States, but have broad application.

In one of his essays, "The Necessity for Ruins", Jackson compares two different styles of monuments. The first type, long the preferred in the United States, reminds us of an important debt that we owe. It reminds us of great leaders, or events, or declarations that we have pledged to honor, and tells us that we should behave in a certain way as a result. A monument to George Washington would thus force us to recall the struggle for democracy and freedom from tyranny, and demand that we act to uphold these lofty goals. The same is true of Civil War monuments. Jackson points to President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, a speech which schoolchildren were long made to memorize, as an accurate summation of this notion:
"We are met to dedicate a portion of that [great battle-] field as the final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might life...It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us..."
Likewise in any local where inhabitants share a strong sense of religious or political past. Aesthetically, he writes:
"A monument can be nothing more than a rough stone, a fragment of ruined wall as at Jerusalem, a tree, or a cross. Its sanctity is not a matter of beauty or of use or of age; it is venerated not as a work of art or as an antique, but as an echo from the remote past suddenly become present and actual."
On the other hand, Jackson identifies another "trending" type of monument which rather than recalling a specific event or person memorializes a vague sense of past, with unspecific dates and names, a monument to a golden age hovering just beyond living memory. He mentions monuments to the anonymous cowboy, the anonymous newsboy, the anonymous boll weevil, and asks:
"What is the purpose of these monuments? They do no remind us of any obligation, they suggest no particular line of conduct." 
Rather, it is an attempt to commemorate a golden age.
Jackson takes this one step further, and explains that societies that have a definite political or legal origin and semi-sacred documents are more likely to have monuments which are reminders of political covenants, while societies that see themselves as having slowly evolved prefer to celebrate their legendary, half-forgotten origins, looking back to a golden age and trying to restore as much of the original landscape as possible.
Although Jackson seems more at ease with the historical monuments, he suggests a way forward for the golden-age monuments.
"First there is a golden age, the time of harmonious beginnings. Then ensues a period when the old days are forgotten and the golden age falls into neglect. Finally comes a time when we rediscover and seek to restore the world around us to something like its former beauty.
But there has to be that interval of neglect, there has to be discontinuity; it is religiously and artistically essential. That is what I mean when I refer to the necessity for ruins: ruins provide the incentive for restoration, and for a return to origins...The old farmhouse has to decay before we can restore it and lead an alternative life style in the country; the landscape has to be plundered and stripped before we can restore the natural ecosystem; the neighborhood has to be a slum before we can rediscover it and gentrify it. That is how we reproduce the cosmic scheme and correct history." 

I can't say which type of monument is currently en vogue in Israel. But preserving ruins, of all periods, certainly provides us with a strong reminder that we are trying to build a better society and that we are trying to return to a mythical golden age, both of which are vital messages here and now.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Izbet Sartah: Even HaEzer

In the vicinity of Rosh Ha'ayin there are three major archaeological sites. Tel Aphek and Migdal Tzedek are fairly well known, but the one closest to Rosh Ha'ayin in proximity is called Izbet Sartah, which is associated with the Biblical site of Even HaEzer. The site was excavated by Israel Finkelstein and Moshe Kochavi. Unlike the other two sites, Izbet Sartah was only inhabited in three stages, in the 13th, 11th and 10th centuries BCE. This is largely the reason why the ruins that remain on the site are limited, and the site was only rediscovered in 1973.
Izbet Sartah is best known for an inscription found which shows all 22 proto-Canaanite letters of the alphabet. Biblically, it is thought to be the site from which the Israelites battled with the Philistines at the start of Samuel I. The Israelites first lost thousands of men and then, in a second battle, lost the Ark of the Covenant.
Architecturally, the most prominent feature in Izbet Sartah is a Four-Room House, a standard building type used specifically by Israelites at this period, termed by S. Yeivin as the "Israelite House." In "Domestic Architecture in the Iron Age" (in The Architecture of Ancient Israel) Ehud Netzer writes:
"A new type of house established itself at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of Iron I in Palestine, Transjordan and parts of Syria and Lebanon. Within a short time it replaced the traditional courtyard house of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages." (p. 193)
In Izbet Sartah, we find the Four-Room House built in both Stratum II and Stratum I, with some modifications. This is despite the fact that the site was abandoned for several decades in between. In terms of ruins - and how ruins are treated - what is interesting is that the site was leveled prior to its reclamation. In Izbet Sartah: An Early Iron Age Site near Rosh Ha'ayin, Israel, Israel Finkelstein writes that
"The leveling of the ruins of the earlier stratum in preparation for laying foundations of Stratum II indicates that the settlement was constructed as a concerted project." (p. 113)
 In other words, when ruins exist, there are two possible ways to rebuild the area: one can simply re-inhabit the ruins (with some modifications and patchwork), or one can level the ruins and rebuild (even if you are rebuilding a similar structure.) Finkelstein equates the former with haphazardly, unplanned settlement, and views the latter as evidence of central planning. This is quite possible in a time when archaeology was not even a concept. However, in our modern project, we believe that planning can and should preserve ruins, and that good planning very often SHOULD incorporate existing ruins. Urban growth does not require leveling old ruins and starting from scratch.

Finkelstein, p.3




Excavation of Four-Room House (Finkelstein, p.34)
)
The Four-Room House, after grass has regrown on site.

Finkelstein, p.29


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Migdal Tzedek Ruins at Sunset

Originally built as the Mirabel Castle by a wealthy Crusader family in the 12th century, the Migdal Tzedek ruins have been occupied by many since then. This is due to its geographical location on a hilltop overlooking the 'Aphek Pass', the only passage north-south between the swamps and sea on the West and the hills of Judea and Samaria on the East. After the Crusaders, the Ottomans and then the Arabs, most recently the village of Majdal Yaba, were located in and around the current ruins of Migdal Tzedek.





































restoration line visible












partially restored