New heights for Jerusalem’s skyline

by Jessica Steinberg
September 3, 2014

The city that doggedly preserved its views is now giving in to its urban needs

Jerusalemites tend to kvetch about any visible changes in the city’s skyline. Consider Holyland, the six-building project that looms over the city. Set high on a hill and with its own access road off the Begin Expressway, it was built with corrupt funds and means, culminating with the prosecution and conviction of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was mayor of Jerusalem as Holyland began and came to fruition. It’s the high-rise development that Jerusalemites love to hate. “Holyland will always remain a symbol of bad architecture and corruption,” said David Kroyanker, the Jerusalem architect and historian. “It’s a project that’s terrible from all sides.”

Olmert, the convicted politician, was all for high-rises in Jerusalem. He once told The Jerusalem Report magazine that he didn’t have any problem with “building tall” in the city’s periphery, “30 floors, even 40.” The capital’s former mayor will be heading to jail in September, but it looks like his taste in architecture will be guiding his hometown’s future.

But despite having precipitated the biggest real estate corruption scandal in Israeli history, Holyland’s look is not necessarily emblematic of the high-rise trend in the holy city, said Kroyanker. “It’s a bad exception.” Once known for its collection of square, squat, Jerusalem stone-covered buildings, Jerusalem is now building high-rises and it’s changing the look of this ancient town…….


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