Jerusalem/ “Preserving” Identity: Contradiction x Segregation in British Mandate McLean Plan (Old City-Modern Environs)
The first photo illustrated the view of the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives on the eastern field, and the vast piece of greenery observed indeed marks the city character of Jerusalem in worldwide perspective (Kimhi, 2014). Jerusalem is characterized by her ancient city centre with prominent wall protection from the outside environs (Bar & Meiron, 2009). Just by analysing such architectural gesture, it already suggested the advocated idea of preserving the Holy City centre both in conservative terms as well as city planning strategy. In view of this, one could start relating this as the motive of future planning for Jerusalem—focused preservation of the old and constructing the new around the old.
It is observed that during the British Mandate period of Jerusalem, the planning approaches posted influence to the overall layout of development around the Old City. As the English positioned themselves with crucial roles in maintaining the Middle Ages Traditions in old cities, they claimed powers to rule and defend the Holy City of Jerusalem (Kimhi, 2014) with preservationist approach for its planning. The first approved plan (Fig. 2) was then proposed by the British engineer, William McLean who paved the directional objective for the upcoming plans done by Geddes, Holliday, Kendall etc.. throughout the Mandate period. In “protecting the special character of Jerusalem”, it was proposed to divide the city between the Old City and New City around (Bar & Meiron, 2009). Zoning was the strategic means to distinguish the preserved Old City center and the surrounding environs. The city of Jerusalem was planned into division of 4 zones (Fig.3):
- Preserved Medieval Old City with all new constructions prohibited;
- Non-construction around Old City, undesired buildings cleared and area kept in natural state;
- North and east of Old city, buildings erected under special authorization;
- An area North and west of Old city set aside for modern development
(Bar, D. & Meiron, E., 2009)
On conserving the “Medieval character” of this Holy City, three additional restrictions were imposed on the buildings to be constructed around the Old City :
A) Area immediately outside Old City wall-no construction, and all preserved in existing natural state;
B) further away areas in direction of the two mounts–erect buildings with special authorization to assure suitability and integration into overall urban plan;
C) stone as only material & max. height 11m; NO industrial installations & the Mount of Olives skyline vigilantly maintained
To conclude, the overall development projects progressive planning purpose for gradual modernized movement towards areas in the farther North and West, in segregating out the Old City centre, leaving it in static protection from possible destruction of new constructs which the idea was challenged in scholar writings, hinting a contradictory gesture rather distinctive from common Mandate rulers who promoted modernization of old cities. This hence left Jerusalem, a strengthened identity as the Holy City, center of the religious field.
Bar, D. & Meiron, E.. 2009. “Planning and Conserving Jerusalem: The Challenge of an Ancient City”. Jerusalem: Yak Izhak, Ben-Zvi.
Kimhi, I. 2014. “Old Versus New: Preservation Policy in Jerusalem”. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies.
Fig. 1: Bar, D. & Meiron, E.. 2009. “Planning and Conserving Jerusalem: The Challenge of an Ancient City”. Jerusalem: Yak Izhak, Ben-Zvi..
Fig. 2: Kimhi, Israel. 2014. “Old Versus New: Preservation Policy in Jerusalem”. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies.