Struggle to save concert hall heats up

Hundreds gather at Heichal Hatarbut to protest city's plans to change building.

concert hall ta 298 cour (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
concert hall ta 298 cour
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Hundreds of music lovers, architects and others deeply concerned about the future of Heichal Hatarbut came together on Monday afternoon at the landmark Tel Aviv concert hall for a public debate about the city's plans to change the building. Among those present was Shinui MK Etti Livni, the author of a law proposal for the building's preservation. "This building is emblematic of secular, Israeli culture and the decision about its future should not be made by the mayor but by the public at large," Livni told The Jerusalem Post. In addition, Livni said, the manner in which renovation plans had been conducted thus far had been faulty. Even the public debate, she said, was conducted in the framework of such a tight decision-making schedule that its results were fated to have little influence. "The public's opinion is not really being taken into consideration," Livni said. "Nevertheless, I have no doubt that in the end it is the public who will determine the fate of the building, because so many people are opposed to this vandalistic plan." Over the past year, the struggle over Heichal Hatarbut has pitted the Tel Aviv municipality and the Philharmonic Orchestra against architects, conservationists and Knesset members (also including Labor MK Yuli Tamir) who are strongly opposed to the plan. At the heart of the debate is the question of whether the building should be conserved in the interests of architectural culture, or whether the building's interior should be drastically changed in order to accommodate the current musical demands of the orchestra. A series of interruptions from the audience punctuated the presentation made by outgoing city engineer Danny Kaiser, who presented the argument made by proponents of the renovation - ranging from the "dry" acoustics of the concert hall to inadequate facilities, which no longer meet police and fire department regulations. The central features of the renovation plan center upon restructuring the building's unique, fan-shaped concert hall and rebuilding it as a rectangle and tearing down and rebuilding the hall's dome. Protesters of the renovation plan who spoke at the public debate Monday afternoon reiterated the concerns that have been voiced over recent months regarding the renovation. These include the argument that acoustics are a matter of changing fashions, and that not enough efforts had been made to see if the acoustic problems could be resolved without major renovations. Furthermore, they said, the underlying reason for restructuring the concert hall was a desire on the part of its benefactors to transform it into a newer and flashier edifice. The fate of the building, which is a key feature of the "White City," recently declared by UNESCO to be a world heritage site, must - they claim - be determined by the public. The debate was following by a meeting of the city's planning and preservation committee, which is charged with reviewing and approving the renovation plans submitted by the city. Approval of the plans will most likely lead its opponents to appeal the decision.