According to Louis Kahn, an American-Jewish architect, "The city is the place of availabilities. It is the place where a small boy, as he walks through it, may see something that will tell him what he wants to do his whole life." The young boy or girl, walking in the city, can observe a multitude of occupations, crafts, vocations and avocations, not only those practiced by his or her generation, but also by the many generations past that have inscribed their mark on the city. So the city is a school. Is that enough? No. But a great deal is already there, just by virtue of the vibrant, multi-layered town life, rich both horizontally and vertically. So let's have lots of schools in the city. Comprehensive schools and specialized schools. Schools for students attracted to science, which will study ways to make our cities more sustainable in a world of diminishing resources. Schools for those who love the arts, and many schools for those inspired by our views, our parks, the creations of the past and the challenges of the future. For those transformed by our museums and theaters, and also by our conflicts and squalor. We must have schools for students attracted to the social sciences, which will examine our institutions of government, of justice... Ah, did we say justice? Let us compare courthouses and schools for a moment and think about where they should be located. The courthouses of Jerusalem are dispersed throughout the city in a variety of old buildings in various locations. Some would insist that justice must be meted out in modern facilities, concentrated in one space. But modern judicial buildings are expensive because they are rich in information technology and because they include completely separate systems of circulation. Judges, detainees, police, the public - from the car park to the elevator to the corridor to the bathroom to the cafeteria - they all have segregated systems. They only meet in one place, the courtroom or judge's chamber - that's where justice happens. The proposed new Palace of Justice has been slated for the ample plots of land under the Experimental School Complex, between Rehov Hillel, Rehov Rabbi Akiva and Independence Park. It will cost, umm, let us say, approximately $50 million. Municipal authorities promise that it will create a concentration of law offices and that will somehow "revitalize" the city center, even as it takes away the only remaining school in the downtown area. By comparison, schools are primitive places, where students, teachers, parents all meet in the same corridors - not that far from being under a tree or in the street. That is how schools should be, as Louis Kahn described in his own unique and poetic style: "Schools began with a man under a tree who did not know he was a teacher, sharing his realizations with a few others who did not know they were students." But our city has an availability problem. It has a surplus of square footage for schools in the rapidly aging secular neighborhoods and a shortage of classrooms in the popular "magnet" schools, the Arab schools and the religious schools. The Arts School in the Liberty Bell Garden is an example. That school is ideally located for arts students. It is close to Jerusalem's Cultural Mile (Jaffa Gate, Hutzot Hayotzer, Sultan's Pool, the Cinematheque, and onward towards the new complexes in the old Train Station). It is close to museums, stunning views and beautiful neighborhoods. It is close to the inspirational availabilities that the art students crave. But it is cramped for space. The city has proposed moving the school to the far reaches of nowhere, at the bottom of East Talpiot, to fill the rapidly emptying Seligsberg vocational school. But that would relocate these students from those very places of availabilities and relocate them to more sterile and new neighborhoods that cannot provide the same learning opportunities. And the downtown space will be replaced with halls of justice that are meant to fulfill a different role in our society. So let me present my suggestion: Why not move the Arts High School to the same campus as the Experimental School? Let it become a campus for "alternative schooling" and the inspiration of availabilities. And as for the Palace of Justice? Perhaps those sharp-penciled boys at the Treasury will understand that justice need not be served in modern spaces - especially not when we have a war to pay for. The writer is an architect in Jerusalem. He can be reached at: ben-abba@yahoo.com

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