Unlike those who dig for remnants of cultures past, architect David Kroyanker looks for signs of them on buildings in present-day Jerusalem. Over the past 45 years, he’s taken stock of virtually every structure, accumulating a vast and deep knowledge of the urban texture of the city. ... He amassed an extensive private archive containing some 140,000 items, including drawings, photographs, maps, and articles. Also an avid photographer, Kroyanker has a collection of 150,000 negatives of images he personally captured of the Israeli capital over the decades.
“I am an archeologist of the present. I look just at what is on the surface. I’m a detail hunter,” Kroyanker said in an interview with The Times of Israel about his latest publication, a four-volume set titled, “Jerusalem Design: God is in the Details.”
- In this work, you focus solely on what can be seen on the walls of Jerusalem’s buildings. But you have also been interested in the lives of the people who lived behind those walls.
That is exactly the difference. My other books were mainly the history of buildings and the people who built them and lived in them. I wrote about the changes these buildings and neighborhoods underwent over the years. I wrote six volumes dealing with periods and styles of architecture in Jerusalem. I researched why and how certain buildings and neighborhoods differed from one another in different periods, and also in the same periods. Take for example the differences between Mea Shearim, which is very similar to the ghettos of Eastern Europe of the late 18th century and 19th century, and the Muslim Quarter, which is really casbah architecture. Rehavia was built as the garden city of the 1930s, and the adjacent Talbiye was built more or less at the same time. Talbiye [with ornate mansions] was built by well to do Arabs, for whom showing off economic wealth was very important. By comparison, the Jews who built Rehavia, although some of them were also wealthy, were less interested in exhibiting their wealth.
- Many of the items included in the book no longer exist in Jerusalem. They’ve been lost to development, lack of preservation and theft. Do you worry that more of these design identities will disappear?
Sure. I worry that even more will be gone in the future. I think the big blow in terms of these changes was in the last 35 to 40 years. It’s because of the growth and development of Jerusalem since 1967. Until then it was different. Before that there was no development in the city.