Monday, 18 August 2014

Picture Post 34 - A House of Tiles in Paris



Most Paris visitors go to Porte de Clignancourt to visit the famous flea market with its many antique stalls, book dealers, vintage poster and postcard sellers and where you can get hundreds of other items ranging from real art deco objects in chic shops to dodgy mobile phones on sale outside the metro station! 

Less well known is an architectural beauty, just ten minutes walk from the metro station at 185 Rue Belliard. Rue Belliard is a long street with an interesting mixture of modern housing units - which at least appear to be in better condition than many of the estates on the edge of the city, 19th century buildings that once served as schools and now operate as training centres for the catering industry and quite a lot of frankly drab tenement blocks of various ages. 185 easily stands out from its neighbours and can be seen from some way along the street. 

Built between 1910 and 1913, the structure of the building is not particularly outstanding although the recessed windows and the juliet balconies are pleasing, but the exterior decoration is simply stunning. Henri Deneux, who was both the architect and the land owner covered his building in brightly coloured plain industrial ceramic squares in intricate patterns, including stylised flowers and geometric shapes, creating a visual delight in this part of the 18th arrondissement.  The simple design of the building - which has only two curves, the lintel of the main entrance from Rue Belliard and also a slighter one above the smaller side entrance in Rue Tennis - is belied by the painstaking patterns and also by the wonderful representation of an artist above the main entrance. Complete with compasses, set square and drawing board, the image shows the architect himself at work. There is something of the renaissance about this image - perhaps its the beard and the smock! I like his tired look, resting his head on one hand whilst designing with the other. Perhaps he intended it to be a reminder to residents of how hard he worked on the exterior design - something they see every time they come through the main door!

Architect Deneux's main claim to fame is that he worked extensively on the restoration of Reims Cathedral. He was particularly responsible for the restoration of its concrete framing following extensive damage in the First World War when the Cathedral was hit by over 300 fire bombs between 1914 and 1918.  His work on the cathedral must have been the crowning glory of his career, but I rather like his apartment building in Rue Belliard - one of the may secret architectural treasures of Paris.

And ow for some photographic indulgence...

Every surface is covered in coloured tiles
Deneux himself above the main entrance
Side entrance in Rue Tennis

And more of those tiles





Monday, 11 August 2014

Elaine Delmar - Jazz Royalty at JW3


The fabulous Elaine Delmar took the stage to applause last night at JW3, gave a big smile and treated the full house to two excellent sets of jazz standards taking us on a tour of some of the best songs ever written.

Supremely elegant in black layered gown and diamond jewellery and ably supported by the Brian Dee quartet the first set included Jobim's No More Blues, Gershwin's There's A Boat That's Leaving Soon and I Love's You Porgy, and rousing, swinging versions of Cole Porter's I've Got You Under My Skin and It's Alright With Me. Ms. Delmar's voice is perfectly suited to these classics - ranging from silk to velvet and if necessary gravel, reminding me more than a little bit of the late Carmen Mcrae and a touch of Sarah Vaughan especially on those lovely deep velvety notes. Now that's praise. And that wasn't all. She gave us a haunting version of Michel Legrand's Windmills of Your Mind, Paul Williams' I Won't Last a Day (made famous by the Carpenters) and Honeysuckle Rose from the pen of Fats Waller. The latter song has a story attached to it. Elaine performed it on stage in the 1970's in the London version of stage show Bubbling Brown Sugar and not only that, Miquel Brown one of the other stars of that show was in the audience. Some of us remember her as a disco artist in the 1980's!

The second set was equally impressive with a great bossa nova version of Porter's Begin the Beguine, Rogers and Hart's Little Girl Blue and Who Knows Where or When before Edith Piaf's Hymn d'amour. The jazz audience at JW3 is informed and discerning, but Elaine Delmar had them in the palm of her hand, even managing a little audience participation to Fats Waller's Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter with the crowd more than happy to sing along. If that was a risk so was doing Summer Time. Not because she can't sing it beautifully but because it's perhaps a little overdone. However, performing it to only the accompaniment of Simon Thorpe on bass was a stroke of genius. It was a tense, intimate performance. Just great. Thorpe shone on Summer Time whilst quartet leader Brian Dee on piano and Jim Mullen on guitar were both excellent, providing some very cool support to Elaine and giving us some cracking' solos particularly on the more bossa nova influenced numbers. Some of remember Mr. Mullen from playing with the Average White Band in the 1970's and later in the jazz-funk outfit Morrissey-Mullen. Those were the days.

The show finished with a good workout of another Porter song - Let's Do It and that closed another great evening of jazz at JW3. As well as giving a great vocal performance, Ms. Delmar came out between sets to talk to the audience and to sign CD's…including mine! She was also very engaging on stage, knowledgable about the songs and the songwriters and sharing a few memories from days gone by, including performing nearby in the 1950's at a place called the El Toro club. If any readers have memories of the El Toro please share them in the comments box. A quick google reveals that Barbara Windsor performed there in the late 50's. Cor blimey. And by the way, another google shows that Elaine Delmar is in her early 70's (I hope she doesn't mind my saying so if she ever reads this). She looks a whole lot younger than that and sounds better than ever.

Elaine Delmar - they don't make them like her anymore. Thanks JW3.

Friday, 8 August 2014

More Hampstead Modernism

I recently discovered the small but beautiful Isokon Gallery when visiting the building of the same name in Lawn Road, Belsize Park. The gallery has a great little book shop and as well as treating myself to a couple of books I invested one pound in the Hampstead Trail - a map showing the area's modernist houses from the 1930's. I have already written about two of the houses on the trail - Isokon itself here and Erno Goldfinger's House in Willow Road here. Last weekend I took a couple of hours to stroll around Hampstead and to see some of the other great modernist buildings on the map. 

The Sun House, Frognal Way, Maxwell Fry, 1935
Frognal Way is a gravel covered side road that is home to several impressive houses in a range of styles. It is also home to Maxwell Fry's Sun House built in 1935 for a private client. Striking for its white facade and balcony that runs the length of the building, some of it is now hidden behind mature trees and plants whose colour contrasts with the starkness of the building. It is not hard to imagine the balcony and the garden being used for entertaining back in the late 1930's in the last few years before the Second World War. You can almost hear the cocktails being mixed.

The house has a reinforced concrete frame, tubular steel railings on the balconies and steel columns supporting the cantilevered canopies. There were originally steel framed windows but as with many buildings from this period they have been replaced. A total design approach was often taken in modernism and the Sun House had built-in plywood furniture. The living room and dining area occupy almost the whole length of the house and have views over London, whilst the kitchen and maids' (!) quarters were placed at the rear of the building. Architect Fry began his career as a neo-classicist but converted to the modernist cause and in 1934 formed a partnership with Water Gropius of the Bauhaus who had fled Germany in the same year. Together they designed Impington Village College in Cambridgeshire. Fry also designed modernist buildings in Surrey and Ladbroke Grove, west London.

The Sun House, Frognal Way, Maxwell Fry, 1935
The Sun House, Frognal Way, Maxwell Fry, 1935
Frognal Way runs off Frognal, a winding hill leading to one of London's highest points. 66 Frognal is a large building that stands on the junction of the two streets. Built in 1938 and designed by New Zealanders Amyas Connell and Basil Ward and British architect Colin Lucas it was the cause of great controversy due to its extremely modern look and its location amongst neo-Georgian buildings. This is a little ironic given that it has Grade II listed status today and is acknowledged for its architectural importance.

It looks as if it could have been built more recently than the 1930's and would not be out of place in the Netherlands or Scandinavia. It is built of reinforced concrete with non-structural elements of blue brick. I really like the contrast of the bright yellow door and the red pillar against the white surround and panelling on the ground floor. According to my Hampstead Trail map these were partly imposed as a planning condition. Good decision planners! There is a balcony at the rear that runs the length of the  house overlooking the garden and gives the appearance of an ocean liner. The solid faced stairwell with side glazing on the facade is also striking. Connell, Ward and Lucas designed several other modernist buildings around the UK including the iconic High and Over in Amersham. A complete study of their work was published in 2008  - Connell, Ward and Lucas, A Modernist Architecture in England.

66 Frognal, Connell, Ward and Lucas, 1938
66 Frognal, Connell, Ward and Lucas, 1938

66 Frognal, Connell, Ward and Lucas, 1938
Arkwright Road lies at the lower end of Frognal. Number 13b, known as the New House was built in 1939 and  stands out from its neighbours due to its glass brick facade at ground floor level and a fabulous blue elongated porthole on the right hand side. Designed by architects Samuel and Harding for one Cecil Walton, the house is built on a site that slopes in two directions. The dining room and the kitchen are at ground floor level whilst the balconied living room faces south with views across London.  It has a reinforced concrete frame and staircase. As with a number of Hampstead's modernist buildings, there is also a beautiful and colour filled garden that adds contrast to the red brick exterior of the house, but my favourite feature is definitely the unusually shaped, stretched looking porthole.

New House, 13b Arkwright Road, Samuel and Harding, 1939.
New House, 13b Arkwright Road, Samuel and Harding, 1939.
Back up Frognal and branching off to climb Chesterford Gardens and Reddington Road, you eventually come to the Hill House. Hill House is a large building but easy to miss. It is set back from the road on the hillside and surrounded by large trees that shield it from passers-by during spring and summer. Look out for a narrow and steep dirt track on the left hand side as you walk up Reddington Road. There are tall wooden gates at the top of the track bearing an eclectic collection of pub signs. Its worth a walk to the gates to get a better view of the house. 

Designed by Oliver Hill, it was completed in 1938 and stands on one of the highest points in the city. Made from brick, the house was originally approached by a long flight of steps through a portico with an internal staircase reaching the main rooms. The balconies are today covered in shrubs and plants that further restrict views of the house - a return visit in the winter when the trees are bare may well be in order. Hill was an accomplished architect having worked originally in the arts and crafts style before discovering modernism. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the design of the Frinton Park Estate in Frinton-on-sea, Essex which has a number of modernist houses. His first house in the style, Joldwynds, in Surrey was not so successful as the rendering fell off and the roof leaked. All geometric shapes and shiny white exterior, Joldwynds still stands today and is in good condition. Well, these things take time. 

Hill House, Redington Road, Oliver Hill, 1938.
Several of the houses on the Hampstead Trail are very large. 13 Downshire Hill is very small but very beautiful. Designed by Michael and Charlotte Bunney and completed in 1936 it is an extremely narrow structure built of bricks with a smooth render and steelwork on the upper level. It stands on the site of a late Georgian end of terrace house but does not seem to jar with its immediate neighbour. The top floor housed an architectural office, pioneering the live-work space concept whilst there was no formal division between the front and back of the house with a sideboard and bookcase being used to divide the space. Regular readers will probably know that my favourite feature of the house is the raised eyebrow canopy on the left hand side which allows residents to enjoy the sunshine and no doubt some great views across London. It reminds me of warmer climes. There is also an unexpected treat at this address in the shape of an extremely stylish metal gate. I don't know if this is also from the 1930's but the slim central panel and narrow bars certainly refer back to the modernist and art deco age.

Downshire Hill, Michael and Charlotte Bunney, 1936.
The gate at 13 Downshire Hill.
Although I have already written about the Isokon building, I can't resist completing this post with another picture of that lovely block on Lawn Road. The Hampstead Trail begins here but you could also do most of the walk in reverse if you wanted to finish up here and maybe buy something from the gallery. I am working my way through a fascinating book purchased there called The Lawn Road Flats: Spies, Writers and Artists by David Burke. It tells the story of the Isokon building and the politics, social circles and intrigue associated with it. Recommended.

Lawn Road Flats (Isokon), Wells Coates, 1934.




Friday, 1 August 2014

Picture post 33: Art deco beauty in Rayners Lane - the former Grosvenor Cinema



Rayners Lane in West London is primarily a residential area and is definitely not on the tourist trail. However, it is home to the former Grosvenor cinema, now the European Centre for followers of the Zoroastrian religion. The cinema opened in 1936 and was the work of architect Frank Ernest Bromige who also designed cinemas in Dalston, Hounslow and Acton. 

As with many cinemas of its time, it was designed on a grand scale with 1,235 seats - 830 in the stalls and 405 in the circle. There was also a 44 feet deep stage, six dressing rooms and a sunken cafe in the foyer. Going to the cinema in the 1930's was an event with seeing the film being only part of the evening out and the Grosvenor was clearly designed to reflect this. The first film shown here was The Country Doctor, screened on 12th october 1936 and starring one Jean Hersholt.


The Grosvenor was taken over by Oscar Deutsch's Odeon chain in 1937, but retained its original name until 1941 when it became the Odeon. A further name change came in 1950 when it was re-badged as the Gaumont. It reverted to being the Odeon in 1964 when the number of seats was reduced to 1,185, finally becoming the Ace Cinema in 1981when it was taken over by an independent owner. This lasted until 1986 when all cinema activity stopped and the building was used as a bar and nightclub for a few years, then stood empty until it was acquired by the Zoroastrian Centre for Europe in 2000. Since then it has been used for religious purposes.  The building was first listed in 1981 at Grade ll status and was upgraded to Grade ll * (star) in 1984.

The dramatic exterior makes the Grosvenor one of the most striking of London's remaining art deco cinemas. Entrance is though three sets of double doors bearing sun-ray designs and set beneath a curved canopy. There are three curved white rendered bays above the canopy, the central one with a convex curve flanked by two shorter ogive curved bays. All three bays are glazed with the outer two sitting within metal frames. The void between the curves is occupied by a stylised feature of projecting concentric curves that has earned the building its local nickname of "the elephant's trunk".

The cinema was built during a period when London's suburbs were rapidly expanding due to the extension of the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, both of which run through Rayners Lane. The Metropolitan Line gave its name to these new suburbs which were referred to as "Metroland" and were built to enable city workers to have more living space, gardens and the benefits of suburban living just a short distance from their workplace. The Grosvenor Cinema would doubtless have attracted residents to the new housing in this part of the city. The building took part in London's Open House weekend in 2013 and hopefully will do so again. The tube station which is opposite the former cinema dates from the 1930's and has some deco features whilst the adjoining flats have some deco hints too.  And there are several Indian restaurants close by if you are feeling hungry...








Sunday, 27 July 2014

Picture Post 32 - Lawn Road Flats, Belsize Park - modernist masterpiece, artists and spies!


During the 1930's Hampstead was home to artists of all disciplines including many architects committed to the modernist agenda. As well as homegrown talent, several architects were refugees from Germany, Austria and the former Czechoslovakia as increasing restrictions were placed on Jews in particular, and more generally on those who opposed Germany's Nazi regime. 

I have already written about Erno Goldfinger's modernist home at Willow Road whilst nearby Belsize Park is home to the modernist masterpiece known as Isokon Flats. Completed in 1934, the flats were designed by Canadian born and British based architect Wells Coates. The block was commissioned by Jack and Molly Pritchard - he an entrepreneur, her a bacteriologist and psychiatrist and both of them committed modernists. The Pritchards established their own company, Isokon, which aimed to produce homes, furniture and fittings in units designed by Coates who was fond of isometric drawings, hence the name of the company, taken from the term Isometric Unit Construction.

Isokon Flats seen from Lawn Road
Wells designed a block of 34 furnished flats over four floors with two rooftop penthouses. The flats were built from reinforced concrete with a cement wash render. The main features include a five storey tower with stairwell access to each floor, lit by a narrow but extremely elegant vertical window reminding me of some of Tel Aviv's best modernist buildings. However, the highlights for me are the stunning cantilevered balconies facing Lawn Road. The glowing white exterior stops unsuspecting passers-by in their tracks, half way down a very English residential street in this part of Hampstead. Adjacent to the stair tower at ground floor level, there are garages presented at right angles to the main footprint of the flats. 

Recently, an exhibition space has been opened at ground floor level. The Isokon Gallery has an exhibition relating to the history and philosophy of the building as well as some items of furniture from the 1930's and information on some of famous (and infamous)  residents. You can buy a map showing the location of other modernist buildings in the area for just one pound (bargain) as well as browse a great selection of books on modernist architecture and some tempting merchandise.

The original interiors were designed to be minimalist with space saving furniture and fittings, fitted kitchens, bathroom, dressing room and bedroom. Echoing Soviet practice in experiments in communal living (for example the Narkomfin building), there was a communal kitchen, later converted into the Isobar restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed in 1969 and was converted into flats. Originally private, the building was acquired by Camden Council in 1972 before coming under the ownership of the Notting Hill Housing Trust. It was granted Grade 1 listed status in 1974 which is the highest listing possible, but was neglected over several years and began to deteriorate. A sympathetic restoration in 2003 restored it to some of its former glory and it now provides accommodation for key workers.

Not only architecturally outstanding, the flats have been home to some very famous people. Writers Agatha Christie and Nicholas Monserrat lived here in the 1930's and 1940's as did modernist icons Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and many other less well known artists, writers and architects. The flats achieved a notoriety in later years when it became known that at least a dozen residents (and probably more) had been involved in spying for the Soviet Union, including Melita Norwood who worked for the Soviets undetected for 39 years - longer than any other known spy in the UK! If walls could talk…

You might also like 2 Willow Road, Goldfinger in Hampstead and Serbian Modernism, A Forgotten Heritage

You can also visit my Facebook site - Art Deco and Modernism around the world
Point of view - Isokon Flats
Detail, balconies Isokon Flats
Main tower, Isokon Flats

Detail - stairs and balconies, Isokon Flats
The Isokon Gallery

Monday, 21 July 2014

Nahum Gutman and a newspaper for children

One of my favourite Jerusalem experiences is browsing in a tiny book shop called Trionfo in Dorot Rishonim Street. Located just off the busy pedestrianised Ben Yehuda Street, Dorot Rishonim is also home to a great new hotel - the Arthur, a good new kosher humous restaurant - Abu YoYo and a small bar called Birman that has either live music or dancing every night. I discovered Birman on my most recent visit when I heard music floating up from the street to my room in the Arthur before going along to enjoy a local quartet play some very cool versions of jazz standards the next night before watching some great swing dancers the night after. All for free!


The music (and the humous) were both great but back to Trionfo. Thanks to owner Abraham Madeisker, I have become the proud possessor of works by various Bezalel artists including Zev Raban's illustrated books and playing cards and books illustrated by another early giant of the Israeli art scene - E. M. Lilien. This time was no exception and I came away with two copies of the children's supplement from the former Davar newspaper, Davar l'yeledim (דבר לילדים) - or Davar for children.

Enormously popular with Israeli children at the time, it was filled with stories, quizzes, crosswords and articles on many different subjects. The copies I purchased include pieces on the Gilboa region, summer in the desert and a regular item called "letter from the camps" with news about the activities of children living in Ma'abarot refugee camps set up to absorb Jews forced out of North Africa and the Arab Middle East in the 1950's. In some parts the text is dense and the technology at the time was very different to that available for modern magazine production but the illustrations are charming and it is easy to see why this publication would have engaged so many children.

Davar was the official newspaper of the Histadrut or Labour federation. Founded in 1925 by Berl Katznelson, it was the most important newspaper of the labour movement.  Katznelson wanted Davar (which means "word") to be informative and educational and to "quench the worker's thirst for knowledge and thought". Despite Katznelson's initial hopes that the newspaper would be free of control by any political party, it became the organ of Mapai, the ruling party throughout the 1940's, 50's and 60's whilst two of its editors rose to the very pinnacle of politics, Moshe Sharrett and Zalman Shazar eventually becoming Prime Minister and President respectively.  Despite its early popularity, it struggled from the 1970s onwards, amalgamating with a other newspaper in 1971, changing its name to Davar Rishon in 1995 and finally closing in 1996.

Most of the illustrations in Davar l'yeledim were the work of famed Israeli artist Nahum Gutman. Born in 1898 in Teleneshty, Bessarabia (in today's Moldova), his family moved to Odessa in 1903 before making aliya to Eretz Israel in 1905. Gutman's family were amongst the first residents of Tel Aviv having initially lived in the Neve Shalom neighbourhood. He studied art at the Bezalel and in the 1920's spent some time working and exhibiting in Paris and Berlin. Returning to Eretz Israel in 1931, his work was inspired by the country's landscapes and people and included mosaics, stage sets and sculpture as well as painting and book illustration. Many of his works can be seen at Beit Gutman in Tel Aviv's Neveh Tzedek which acts as a museum to his life and work.

Gutman had an affinity with young people, writing and illustrating several children's books, but it was his work for Davar l'yeledim that endeared him to more than one generation of Israeli children. In a Beit Gutman publication, his son, Hemi remembers the weekly delivery of what was referred to as "the stuff" to their home - an envelope containing manuscripts for the next edition of the newspaper and for which the artist had three days to prepare the illustrations for stories and poems. He remembers feeling privileged that he knew what happened in each serial an entire week before everyone else! He also remembers that his father would "…address each child in a genuine, friendly way, whether it was on the street, on the bus, or in a crowd of a hundred kids who regarded him as a walking wonder". He also remembers feeling jealous of this affection saying that "during those encounters, all the empathy, the jokes and the witticisms that had always been mine alone were generously and profusely handed out to all the children…"

In today's technological age where the opportunities for interaction are endless but much less personal, Gutman's approach and Davar l'yeledim may seem quaint but together they instilled many children with a love of reading, many of whom retain fond memories of the weekly episode of their favourite serials. 


Friday, 11 July 2014

Architectural treasure in Haifa's Hadar HaCarmel

Tel Aviv is known for its wonderful Bauhaus architecture which won it World Heritage site status in 2003. It is also becoming more well known for its eclectic style buildings from the preceding period. Haifa, Israel's third city can also boast architectural treasure in both styles, but outside of the city, very few people realise this.

I recently spent two full days in the Hadar Hacarmel district, strolling (and sweating in the extreme humidity!) with my camera and enjoying Haifa's much undervalued built heritage. The Hadar neighbourhood was established in the 1920's as the city's first planned Jewish area. Architect Richard Kaufmann planned the district as a garden city based on Tel Aviv. It is far from being a garden city today but there are still some patches of green and many fine buildings, so here, in no particular order, are a few of my favourites from the Haifa's Hadar.

Former Orah Cinema, Herzl Street
Herzl Street is one of the main thoroughfares on the Hadar. It is also home to the former Orah Cinema, built from 1935-1937 and designed by Oskar Kaufmann who also designed the original Habima, the national theatre in Tel Aviv. Long abandoned as a cinema it had 1092 seats and was one of several elegant and much loved picture houses in this part of the city. The foyer was unusually located beneath the balcony whilst there was also a small bar the walls of which were covered in multi-coloured tiles. The cinema suffered fire damage in 1946 and underwent part reconstruction by architect Eugen Stolzer, a former partner of Kaufmann. Stolzer added a new marquee running the length of the building and whilst the original was almost certainly not painted the pink we see today, there are still some nice features that give passers-by a glimpse of its former glory. The ground floor now houses shops whilst the remainder of the building appears to be vacant. 

The Central Synagogue stands a little further along Herzl Street. Building work commenced in 1926 and although the dedication was made in 1927, construction was not completed until 1935. The work was completed in phases due to a lack of finance and was dependant on levies from local residents. A stellar cast of architects are associated with this building. The original plans were drawn up by Alexander Baerwald whilst the later stages were the work of Al Mansfeld and Munio Weintraub (Gitai).  The facade of the synagogue includes an image of Elijah the prophet, signs of the twelve tribes of Israel and a menorah. The land was donated by the PICA company, a charitable organisation established by  Baron Maurice de Hirsch in 1891 with the intention of supporting the development of Jewish communities in Eretz Israel and the Americas as well as a small community in Turkey. 
The Great Synagogue, Herzl Street 
The Technion building (originally known as the Technikum) is one of the city's iconic buildings. Designed by our friend Alexander Baerwald at the request of the Ezra organisation, it was the first university in the country where it was intended to teach technology through the medium of German. What became known as the language war ensued with supporters of German and Hebrew competing with each other - Hebrew finally winning out as the language of instruction. Einstein was one of the supporters of the project and when visiting Haifa in 1923, he planted a palm tree in front of the Technion. The tree is still there today. Einstein has an unusual link with Baerwald - they once played together in a string quartet.

The cornerstone was laid in 1912 and the building served not only as an educational establishment, being used by the German army in 1917-18 and later as a hospital for the Turkish army. Studies were held in the building until 1924 when the Technion moved to its Neve Sha'anan campus and since 1985 it has served as the National Science, Technology and Space Museum. The building is imposing with an elongated facade, featuring local, European and wider Middle Eastern styles. The main entrance with its huge archway, decorative Magen David and clean brick construction is especially impressive, especially against the clear blue sky of a Haifa summer's day and the deep green of the adjacent trees.

The new Technion is one of the most important scientific and technological academic institutions in the world, having produced a number of Nobel Prize winners, originated a new anti-Parkinson's disease drug and produced a web programming language installed on 80% of web servers worldwide.

The original Technion, now the National Science, Technology and Space Museum
Nordau Street, just across the road from the Technion was once a busy shopping street and a magnet for Haifa's middle classes. Citizens were drawn by its many cafes including the Nordau, Ritz, Sternheim and Jordan as well as the high quality shops selling jewellery and fabrics and travel agents. It was also home to the legendary Maskit store established by Ruth Dayan, wife of Moshe. Maskit sold the traditional crafts of Israel's many ethnic groups, as well as ready to wear clothing, from the 1950's until closure in 1994. 

Nordau is today a shadow of its former self, badly affected by the opening of out of town malls in the 1990's, the flight of middle class residents to the Carmel quarter and pedestrianisation which was not popular with local businesses. An article in Haaretz in 2013 gave some grounds for hope, identifying a campaign to bring life back to Nordau Street, but resources are scarce, the challenge is great and progress slow. Strolling along its length, it is best to look up to be able to appreciate how grand this street  once was. There are a significant amount of Bauhaus buildings, with balconies, glazed stairwells and the occasion curve, a style so valued in Tel Aviv but unacknowledged here. I hope the movement to rescue Nordau is successful as so much is in danger of being lost.

Bauhaus on Nordau Street
Bauhaus on Nordau Street
Glass stairwell on Nordau Street
A little further up the Hadar on Arlozoroff Street there is an example of what can be achieved with Haifa's built heritage when benefactors can be found. The Herman Struck Museum, the latest branch of Haifa's excellent collection of city museums opened last year in the artist's former home. The museum displays a selection of Struck's works - primarily etchings depicting his beloved Haifa and Eretz Israel, whilst the building itself is a jewel. Yet another work of Baerwald, the three storey house was built between 1924 and 1926, combining European and Middle Eastern styles with arched windows, painted floors and stone exterior. Renovated and restored in 2013, the museum integrates Struck's furniture, books and other personal items into the exhibition. The restoration was funded by benefactors and members of the Struck family and must now be one of Haifa's star attractions. Struck would have approved. A member of the HaMizrahi movement, he served on the Hadar committee and welcomed many artists, writers and other visitors to his home.

Herman Struck Museum on Arlozoroff Street
Eliyahu and Sarah Mizrahi House on Jerusalem Street
Haifa has a a great collection of buildings in the Bauhaus, Eclectic and other styles. The condition of much of it is heartbreaking but there is hope. There are some signs of revival in the port area and like Struck's former home some buildings appear to be being rescued. The Eliyahu and Sarah Mizrahi house in Jerusalem Street is currently being restored. One of the first houses in the Hadar in 1922, it was built in the eclectic style. As well as being home to the Mizrahis (Eliyahu was an agriculturalist, teacher and builder), artist Tzvi Meirowitz and Israel prize winning writer Judith Hendel also lived there. The opening of a new boutique hotel - The Bay Club on Hassan Shukri in an adapted Turkish period building is another sign of renewal for the Hadar. I stayed there during my trip, enjoyed my stay and felt much more comfortable than in some of the more expensive but less personal hotels on the Carmel.

In addition to this, the City Museum will be launching a series of guided walks focusing on Haifa's built heritage. I am also told that there are some very early plans for a new book about Haifa's Bauhaus and modernist architecture later this year - something I am very much looking forward to. Perhaps there is hope yet. In the meantime forgive my indulgence in including some more pictures!

Wonderful scooped building at the junction of Lev Shabtai and Herzl streets
Unusual combination of styles in Jerusalem Street
Renovated Bauhaus building on Arlozoroff Street

Bauhaus apartment building on Arlozoroff Street

The Clock House office building, built 1934-36. Architect - Gideon Kaminka.


You might also like A postcard from Haifa and Change in Haifa