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Jerusalem aerial view David Citadel 370.(Photo by: Library of Congress)
Almost there: King David’s Crown Residences, Jerusalem
Few building sites in Jerusalem, if any, can match the size and location of this 200-unit, exclusive residency.
Few building sites in Jerusalem, if any, can match the size and location of this one. Situated on the site of the former Beitar Jerusalem football field formerly owned by the YMCA, this is a prime location in an historic area, in close proximity to the King David and David’s Citadel hotels, the Mamilla quarter and the Old City, not to mention excellent access to the center of town.

You say you want more for your money? Some two hundred exclusive apartments with 24-hour security service, Shabbat elevators and direct underground access to the new YMCA sports complex with its swimming pool and spa, under construction, surround a large private park.

A three-room apartment sells for $1.25 million, a six-room, 300 sq.m. duplex for $2m.

Notwithstanding the marketing video showing all the king’s men building this palace, King David himself obviously could not possibly afford to live here.

The project’s basic urban design concept is outstanding.

The residential buildings’ continuous facades, broken up at intervals by arched openings, following its curving road line, are well-related to Washington Street, thereby creating a large interior open space respectful of the adjacent historic YMCA The British knew what they were doing, at least in architectural terms. A famous urban pair, the Y and the King David Hotel, both constructed during the Mandate period, face and complete each other across King David Street.

Architects Spector Amishar, in their wisdom, have integrated the central axis of these historic buildings into their design. The project thus fits into its urban context perfectly.

But what of the architecture? Unfortunately, the new buildings are squat and heavy, pompous and pretentious, of enormous bulk – eight-stories high, opposite mainly four-story structures.

Though presently accessible to the general public, the large interior park enclosed by the residences is raised above Washington Street and cut off from it visually, and so has little chance of coming alive. Narrow Washington Street will now see much heavier traffic than before.

For some reason, the dangerous perpendicular parking on King David Street adjacent to the Y, threatening pedestrians on the narrow sidewalk, forcing cars to back out into heavy traffic and an eyesore to boot, was not dealt with.

Worthy of note is the fact that in searching out solutions, the architects investigated an alternative scheme that was based on completing the public pedestrian network, tying Keren Hayesod Street to Lincoln Street via the site on the diagonal, thus significantly easing access to the Mamilla quarter and the Old City. But as the main body of the site had been previously designated as private, rather than public open space, this alternative was rejected.

Hopefully, those who have purchased apartments here intend to live in them yearround, thus avoiding the possibility of yet another key urban area, such as David’s Village and Yemin Moshe, being left deserted.

All said, it must be acknowledged that this extremely large and important building complex, possibly the most important its architects have ever undertaken, exhibits mature and responsible urban design, a significant achievement in so sensitive an area. But to make it all the way, the urban design needed to be complemented and supported by fine architecture. A pity that this is not the case here.

The writer is an architect and town planner in Jerusalem who researched the project’s surroundings for Spector Amishar Architects and Planners in its very early stages.
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