The Built Heritage Research Center is the first project of its kind in Israel. Its origins lie in the Department for Architectural Documentation, established in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion in 1975, which in 1990, under the direction of Prof. Gilbert Herbert, became the Center for Architectural Heritage. The Center has been led by Assoc. Prof. Alona Nitzan-Shiftan in recent years, and has renewed its research activity, acquisition of new collections, and publication of books.
Since 2017, thanks to the generous support of the Arenson family, the Center now operates under its new name, The Avie and Sarah Arenson Built Heritage Research Center. The Center, which is situated in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, maintains constant and close connections with the faculty’s educational programs, and acts as a home-base for students and researchers studying various aspects of built heritage in Israel. The Center maintains partnerships with the Technion Historical Archive at the Central Technion Library, the Azrieli Architecture and Town Planning Library, the National Library of Israel, and other research institutions in Israel and abroad.
The Center provides Israeli and international researchers with a dynamic laboratory in which to examine the nature of the urban environment and the ideas from which Israeli architecture originated. Researchers, students, and practitioners are invited to use the Center to study past and present principles that explain and enrich our contemporary reality, and identify trends in current architectural practice. The valuable materials housed in the Center are an ever-growing treasure trove of documents and collections that provide visitors with extraordinary opportunities to examine the history of local Israeli architecture. These materials help us understand the role of the spatial disciplines – architecture, landscape design, and urban planning – in the development of the local space. Moreover, they allow us to examine the ways in which architects and designers have expressed competing visions for the urban environment. As such, the Center for Built Heritage constitutes a national resource of prime importance, not only for scholars of architecture, but for anyone interested in Israeli history, culture, and politics.
The Center strives to fulfill its goals through three main courses of action: a research lab, an archive, and a publication house.
The research lab
The Lab for Built Heritage Research supports scholars and professionals, and advances the study and documentation of the Israeli urban landscape while focusing on subjects relating to the history, theory, and heritage of the built environment, and aspects of its architecture, planning, and design. The laboratory encourages research dealing with the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern context reflected in the local and traditional architecture, buildings, and landscape, which represent a variety of religions, social groups, and historical periods. In particular, the laboratory attempts to fill the knowledge gap concerning Arab architecture in Israel. Special emphasis is given to research that makes use of the archive’s collections, as well as to supporting courses and research that utilize this resource. The laboratory also runs a research group, hosts guest lecturers, and holds a yearly conference promoting research in the field. As part of the “Year of Haifa” announced by the faculty, and in cooperation with the Municipality of Haifa, the laboratory adopted Haifa’s history and its preservation as a central project.
The archive, which stands at the heart of the Built Heritage Research Center, began to take shape with the establishment of the Department for Architectural Documentation during the mid-1970s, and today includes a variety of new collections. These materials are an ever-expanding treasure trove, providing an exceptional opportunity to examine the role and development of local spatial disciplines. The archive constitutes a national resource of great importance, and seeks to promote and maintain its collections according to professional standards, while restoring and preserving valuable documents. The archive ensures that the collections with which it is entrusted are kept in proper conditions, with all the necessary professional archival services they require. The archive’s team works to preserve and process the documents in its collection, making them accessible to researchers, professionals, and the public.
The Center’s archive includes early collections related to the development of the Technion and the city of Haifa, including the collections of the architects Prof. Alexander Baerwald, Dr. Gideon Kaminka, Max Loeb, Prof. Yohanan Ratner, the Technion portion of Prof. Alexander Klein’s collection, and more. The center also houses various other resources, including files on some 200 architects who worked in Israel, both past and present; a collection of student projects from the 1960s onwards; a collection of maps and aerial photographs from various periods; a collection of glass plate negatives from the British Mandate period; and a collection of books published by the Center. In recent years, the Center has increased the scope of its materials, and invested efforts in cataloging, organizing, and sorting its collections. Moreover, the Center has resumed the collection of new materials from leading Israeli architects, including: the collection of architect Yaakov Yaar, Israel Prize laureate; the collections of Arch. Saadia Mandel and Nachum Meltzer, among the pioneers of building preservation in Israel; and important collections concerning the history of the city of Haifa, such as the collection of Arch. Moshe and Leopold Gerstel, that illuminates the integration of architecture in Haifa and the inter-cultural connections that it created. A dedicated professional team and a group of motivated students preserve and process the documents, making them accessible to the public.
The Publishing House
In parallel with the renewed activity of the archive, and the addition of new collections, the publication of important architectural documents has also been resumed, by means of a publication house that operates as part of the Center. In recent years, the publication house has published three books representing three different series that it is promoting: the Testimonies Series, which publishes first-hand historical accounts (the first book in the series was Life and Architecture, by Yaakov Yaar, published in 2016); the Document Series, which publishes primary archival sources (the first book in the series was Aphoria – Architecture of Independence, by Jeremie Hoffmann and Hadas Nevo-Goldberst, published in 2017); and the Collection Series (the first book in the series was a collection of articles by Prof. Ruth Enis, published in summer 2019). Publications are also planned in the Research Series, which will publish scholarly texts by faculty members and researchers, and the Question Series, which deals with significant subjects in historical architectural research. The Research Center publishing house initiates projects in cooperation with researchers and professionals, based on collections held in our archives.
The Built Heritage Center strives to create an active center with a rich knowledge base, ensuring that past documents and projects have a future that is vibrant and relevant, and enabling free access to the material for all who are interested.
The archive is open to the public. We recommend scheduling a meeting in advance.
For additional information and to arrange a visit to the archive, please contact us at:
Amado Building, Room 211, The Technion, Haifa 3200003
Head of the Research Center: Prof. Alona Nitzan-Shiftan – firstname.lastname@example.org
Collections Manager: Arch. Elad Horn – email@example.com
Publication House Manager: Oryan Shachar – firstname.lastname@example.org
Archivist: Itay Keren – email@example.com