eli attia architect

Reason, not whim

The Shalom (now Azrieli) Center six-year story 1992-1997

District Court decision v. David Azrieli's version

Told through excerpts from the District Court Decision

The Honorable Judge S. Sirota, Tel Aviv District Court, Israel 17 December 1997

(Bold added)

Attia’s creation

“The legend, which could well be a historical fact, tells that Shah Jihan — upon completion of the Taj Mahal — ordered to kill its architect. It was described by Rabindranath Tagore as a monument and a gift of love to the Shah’s beloved wife, so that he could not rebuild similar creation to the delight of another ruler.

In our days, architects are no longer executed, but sometime the outcome is that while the exterior configuration of the architectural creation is preserved, its soul is torn out.”

The project of the Shalom Center, as presented in the competition is the art of architecture at its peak.”

“The developer cannot mutilate the design by claiming he purchased its copyright and can do with it as he pleases as if it was his own, and disguising it as making ‘necessary changes.’ ’’

“The brochure that was presented to the Competition Committee was shown to me, and in my opinion, it is sufficiently detailed. It would be difficult to assert that the reality of executing the design could not accomplish the dream of it, ... A more plausible explanation is that this is the product of Azrieli’s desire to cut expenses.”

Winning the competition

The developer won the bid only because of the architectural design.”

“I have examined the competition documents and I have found that the issue of architectural value of the project was the key in both the panel decision, and in the contract eventually signed with the developer.”

“It is without doubt that, were it not for Attia’s unique design, the other finalist would have won the project.”

“In the competition panel discussions, the following was said: ‘I see in the recommended project an added value, above and beyond its compliance with the competition’s requirements. This design, if realized, would be an attraction for tourists in Tel-Aviv, being unique by not merely local but international standards. A project of this scope, one that utilizes such a bold design, would be an attraction and would give an added value to things that exceeds the conditions set forth in the competition.”

“Mr. Resnick [one of the competition judges and a well-known Israeli architect] compared the winning and losing proposals, saying:

“ ‘The difference is like the difference between a major fashion designer such as Dior, and a run-of-the-mill one... to my belief, the project we embrace is very unique...’ ”

“Mr. Rechter [another judge and a well-known Israeli architect] said:

“ ‘The difference between the proposals is the difference between an ordinary commercial building and a building which is a real work of art – and of major significance in the city’s skyline.’ ”

“As mentioned previously, the competition panel was aware of the fact that the Attia was leaving the project against his will, but stressed that it is both possible and critical to construct the project according to Attia’s design...”

“Facing the Honorable Judge Shtruzman was the question of whether or not it was appropriate to render the competition’s outcome null and void after Attia’s forced resignation, fearing that the exceptional plan would not be realized as he had intended.”

“The appeal was overruled only because of Judge Shtruzman’s conviction that the project could be properly constructed without the direction of the creator. The Municipality made a commitment to him that it would execute Attia’s design.”

Attia’s right to protect his creation

“It should be said… that Attia’s worst nightmare has come true.”

…I understand Attia’s agony when seeing the abuse of his creation.”

As the one that the project bears his name, Attia finds it so much more difficult to accept the mutilation of his creation.

[Azrieli’s actions] indicate premeditated obliteration of the original design’s heart and soul. Why wonder then that the creator cannot accept this!?

“According to the contract — which carries Attia’s signature, and the arbitrator’s decision — Attia is prohibited from turning to the court of law. However, it cannot stop his right to object to the fundamental changes in his design, while both the rules of the competition and the terms of the contract were a binding commitment to construct his architectural design without changes. One cannot seal the gates of the courts in the face of an offense of public consequences as it relates to City Hall. In accepting the developer’s proposal [Attia’s design], City Hall had committed itself, in front of Attia and the general public, to guard the conditions set forth in the competition. Otherwise, the winner of a competition would be able to decorate his offer with beautiful adornments which cost a fortune simply to delight the judges’ eyes only to take them off after he had won, leaving an ordinary kind of building, in order to save money or for any other capricious intention.”

Attia’s fight to protect the integrity of his creation

“...I cannot overlook the fact that the one person who can, and should, voice the concerns of the silent people of Tel Aviv is Attia.

“Azrieli’s lawyer enumerated all the dates in which decisions regarding changes were made, and then asked why Attia remained silent.”

Attia did not rest, nor did he remain silent. The above claim is preposterous.”

“Attia, foreseeing what would happen, appealed to the court for temporary relief even before construction has started. His appeal was rejected. To counter Attia’s commitment, Azrieli had filed a $3 million lawsuit against him. Such a lawsuit can deter even people as courageous as Attia. Nevertheless, Attia again turned to the courts.”

“It is astonishing that the request for building permits regarding the changes was ‘held up’ until the closing of Judge Kling hearing. That is why I have indicated that Attia predicted the forthcoming even before these actions were implemented...

Regretting  that society cannot protect the creator from the powerful

… I am sorry to say that sometimes riches have the upper hand since creativity does not have adequate financial resources. I do not believe that Attia is able to place sufficient guarantees to ensure compensations to Azrieli if his petition is overruled.”

Specific comments on Azrieli’s premeditated obliteration of Attia’s facades

“Azrieli claimed that changing the windows and facades fell under ‘necessary changes.’ The assertion that white concrete did not comply with acceptable standards was raised at the time, as an inquiry was requested. It is unclear to me who had made this inquiry, and how the conclusion that there is no white concrete whatsoever that complies with Tel Aviv standards was reached.”

“In a casual inquiry I made, I have found that when appropriately constructed, and there are international standards in this matter, white concrete is as durable as it is beautiful...”

“The combination of reflective glass, reflecting the sky’s color and light, along with the white surface of the concrete, white as desert sand, are reminiscent of the flag of Israel, and has beauty of its own, along with a weightless and airy sensation.”

“Substituting Attia’s facades with glass only, would change the appearance of the project, from three towers which, while massive, look as if they are floating with their head in the sky, to three gray towers anchored to the ground, as the Attia claims.”

With all of my might I would aid Attia, and return the noble beauty of the original design that was stolen from the city, if only in the matter of the facades…

“Notwithstanding, it was asserted that there are facts that cannot be changed. In this matter, I have nothing but the Azrieli’s pledge, and will refer to it later in my decision.”

It seems to me, that the narrow crack for the possibility of making ‘necessary changes’ which are objectively needed, has become an opening as wide as a stadium for making fundamental changes some of which were made even before a building permit was issued. Moreover, as agreed, the City Engineer is the one who should have requested these changes. The fact that Azrieli — the Developer — initiated the changes, speaks volumes.”

Attempting to at least save the project’s facades

“It seems to me, that it is appropriate — and not too late even at this stage — to appoint an expert... If one of these gentlemen would accept the nomination, his first assignment would be to prepare a report regarding the going back on issues of the windows and the facade.”

“By including the design as a prerequisite in the competition, City Hall became obliged to assure that Azrieli would act in accordance to the terms of the competition and the agreement, and would turn the conceptual design— which was sufficiently detailed — into a reality.”

“The terms of the competition are more than a general administrative pledge. It is a promise to the whole world.”

“As was mentioned earlier, the deciding factor in the competition’s outcome was the uniqueness of Attia’s design.”

“After going through the words of the competition’s judges, the testimonies heard before the Honorable Judge Shtruzman, and the design presentation submitted to the competition committee... one cannot help but reach this conclusion: from the plan’s inception, the citizens of the City were promised an extremely beautiful, sculptural creation.”

The same six years told by David Azrieli


“Azrieli Center (Hebrew: Merkaz Azrieli) ...was originally designed by Israeli-American architect Eli Attia, and after he fell out with the developer of the center David Azrieli (after whom it is named), completion of the design was passed on to the Tel Aviv firm of Moore Yaski Sivan Architects.”




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