I recall having a conversation, probably a dozen years ago, with my partner Eliezer Goldberg, inquiring when the hideous Supersol building – so called in honor of the city’s first supermarket, situated underneath the famous structure – will be razed and replaced with a new building. He responded that there were rumblings that the building, which is located next to the Leonardo Plaza Hotel on the corner of King David and Agron Streets, would get torn down, but the process will be difficult and lengthy, as it was a landmarked building.
Good news: Eleven years after the approval process started, the Jerusalem Municipal Preservation Committee gave final approval earlier this month to demolish this seven-story eyesore and replace it with a 30-story building containing retail shops along King George Street and residential apartments above. And for all customers of the supermarket, fret not: Supersol on Agron Street is not part of the building and will remain intact and continue to operate.
Built in 1961, The Amir Center – that’s the building’s official name – was designed by Israeli-Brazilian architect and town planner David Resnick, who left his mark on the Israeli landscape, having (1) designed many iconic Israeli buildings, such as the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus; (2) planned numerous neighborhoods, including sections of Modiin and Beit Shemesh; and (3) created the Yad Vashem master plan to enable the institute to handle the horde of visitors, which total over one million annually.
Resnick was truly one of the industry’s original “starchitects” and received the Israel Prize, the country’s highest cultural honor. After he passed away, streets in Netanya and in Jerusalem’s Rechavia neighborhood were named in his honor.
The modernist Amir Center is famous for being built on stilts; this was done to offer views of the Old City from King George Street. In fact, most everything about this building was different and original. For example, the architect incorporated prefabricated building components to expedite the construction process. The building was feted by the construction industry for its many technological innovations, but the general public felt that the apartment building’s modern architecture stood out like a sore thumb in its traditional surroundings. Although the Amir Center was initially planned as part of a three-building complex along King George Street, the other two buildings were never built due to the harsh criticism that this building received.
Unfortunately, the building did not age well and, over time, became rundown and dreary. A number of years ago, architect David Resnick lamented the building’s dilapidated condition and, offering a brutally honest assessment of the property, stated, “The building really was revolutionary, but from the beginning there was something unsuccessful about it, gloomy.” How ironic that the structure, though later perceived as an eyesore, was initially considered by some as a bold model of optimism, and helped launch Resnick’s illustrious career.
Another ironic twist is that, although Israelis pretty quickly dubbed the Amir Center “the ugliest building in Jerusalem,” – while others called it the “Tel Aviv building” for its overly innovative design that never fit in with the neighborhood – overseas, the iconic building was a celebrated paradigm of ground-breaking, modern architecture.
Here’s hoping that the building which replaces the Amir Center will age better than its predecessor, and become a beloved Jerusalem landmark and an inspiring addition to the capital’s skyline.