2 Jerusalem/ Ashbee (I)- Integration of Orientalism and the Everyday
Following the city plans proposed by William Mclean and Patrick Geddes, Charles Ashbee prepared his revised proposal and schemes around 1919 to 1922 when he was appointed “civic advisor” and secretary to the Pro-Jerusalem Society. Where the plans of Mclean and Geddes remained symbolic and strongly revolving around their impetus for protecting the Old City, with Ashbee and the planners beyond we begin to see attempts to integrate rather than segregate. Increased defensiveness and the riots of 1920 and 1922 and the urban planners’ personal motivations all played a role in determining their position in balancing the imposed romantic sacredness and the existing urban culture. The latter will be discussed throughout this thread.
Ashbee adapted Mclean’s ideas of Old City preservation and beautification but in a more humanistic way that was more attuned to the everyday lives of the local inhabitants. His background in the Arts and Crafts movement (he was a student of William Morris) is shown through his rootedness in the urban reality of Jerusalem. That said, there are still many instances that the Orientalist and Romantic notions of the Holy City prevail and permeate through his work as well as shortsightedness in the overview of modernization.
Significant proposals included the construction of a khan at the Damascus Gate. Ashbee like the planners before him saw Ottoman developments around the Old City as displeasing. By removing such structures around the gates he wished to create a more Orientalist unobstructed picture of the city wall. In place he proposes a two storey khan that aligned the urban grain on the edge of the wall, which was to be used as a marketplace and for the animals to rest. The felaheen (farmers and laborers) came to sell produce during the day would use the khan for accomodation and a “parking lot” for their camels. This approach differed as it aimed to merge the Old City with the new developmental areas, treating the wall more of a daily place than a monument “too precious to touch” and displaying a sensitivity (however short sighted) towards local customs. The authors Pullan and Kyriacou suggest the compromise of Old City viewline-clearing and private commercial activities was due to the lack of support and funding from the public sector, having to rely on private clients, often wealthy families. I believe in many cases the Palestinian apathy towards the agendas of the Empire is revealed (ironically to the Pro-Jerusalem Society too). Ashbee’s proposals come closer to the actual needs of the locals than that of the “Sacred Park” schemes of say Geddes and for Henry Kendall’s desire for spectacle in his succeeding proposal plans.