Israeli landscapes

The polygonal stone blocks of the Jerusalem wall, the flowers of desert cacti, the complexities of Arab geometrical designs: all are part of the background against which Zvi Hecker's Ramot Housing complex, published in the pages of Domus in 1985, should be contemplated.

This article was originally published in Domus 657 / January 1985

 

In this latest work by Zvi Hecker we see the same interest in morphology and space as is to be seen in his very first projects some twenty years ago. His area of activity has remained the same, too: the shores of the Mediterranean, the hills of Judaea and Samaria, Haifa, Tel Aviv, the Negev Desert, and, now, the rocky hill of Jerusalem. The polygonal stone blocks of the walls of Jerusalem, the geometrical flowers of desert cacti, the complexities of Arab geometrical designs: these all form part of the physical and mental background against which we must view the Ramot Housing complex, with its closely-packed volumes and dodecahedric faceting. The plan of the complex seems to be inspired by the five veins of a leaf, or the five fingers of a hand.

 

Hecker himself says that the final shape of the project derives from the structural arrangement of sunflower seeds, even though this helical design has not been carried through to the built stage. Nevertheless this history of the design's evolution is still of interest, revealing as it does interesting aspects of Zvi Hecker's approach and outlook.

Paesaggi d'Israele
Zvi Hecker, Ramot Housing, Domus 657 / January 1985. Page detail
Of all the variables contributing to the formation of a project, the structure of form as homogeneous division of three-dimensional space is certainly dominant here. The design, we may say, results from morphogenesis of a cellular cluster. There are, of course, precise mathematical laws governing this morphogenesis. The study of such laws is aided by a familiarity with morphogenesis in the world of Nature: in biological organisms an in the forms of minerals.
Hecker has an ecological outlook: man and nature to him are parts of a single system rather than polar opposites
From the philosophlcal point of view Hecker's reference to the natural physlcal world implies a belief in a continuity between this world and the artificial world of human artifacts. Mental and logical constants give structure to the artifact at a level of material organization that belongs to the artificial world, but which is also implicit in the material itself. In this approach, form does not follow function, but merely obeys its own inherent structural laws.
Paesaggi d'Israele
Zvi Hecker, Ramot Housing, Domus 657 / January 1985. Page detail
Now that it has become a fashion to criticize the functionalism of the Modern Movement, the path chosen by Hecker twenty years ago should be of generai interest, though it takes a different, and possibly opposite direction to that of the Postmodernism presently dominating the world stage to great critical acclaim. Postmodernism underlines the artificiality of artifacts, in particular those most blatantly non-natural products: the machine and the metropolis. Postmodern eclecticism and the selective Postmodern memory operate only within the symbolic media of the artificial world. Hecker, in contrast, has an ecological outlook: man and nature to him are parts of a single system rather than polar opposites.
Paesaggi d'Israele
Zvi Hecker, Ramot Housing, Domus 657 / January 1985. Page detail
The experimental air about the finished design provides a clue to Hecker's mental approach. And so, the Ramot Housing complex — quite beyond its effective response to local climate — is also of interest for its figurative solution to the problem of the interrelationship of habitat and environment. Figurative: in other words, not merely functional, yet not merely anti-functionalist either, in some sterile and polemical way. It communicates eloquently with the specific place in which it is, like a biological organism, like a desert plant in the desert. Maria Bottero
Paesaggi d'Israele
Zvi Hecker, Ramot Housing, Domus 657 / January 1985. Page detail

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