The private house of Maurice Fischer at 19 Maalei Hatzufim Street in Ramat Gan appears on the list of houses for preservation in Ramat Gan, but it has never been an architectural icon that attracted visitors. On the other hand, there is no doubt that it is one of the most beautiful homes in Israel and built in an international architectural style - Bauhaus. The magical feeling of the place is linked to the elegant architecture, but also to the house's view of Tel Aviv from the top of lofty and wooded Givat Karkur.
Several years ago, however, the lot on which the house is located was divided. In the northern part, which was purchased by the Israeli-American Nakash brothers, the trees were uprooted, the hill was dug up, and a luxury apartment building was constructed. The project is interesting because of the unusual architectural design transformation and also because of the human story behind it.
Beverly Hills in Ramat Gan
The superficial image of Ramat Gan is not especially luxurious, but in the 1930s, there were several areas in the city that behaved like Beverly Hills, or at least like Kfar Shmaryahu. The wealthy people of the country came here when they were fed up with the crowding in Tel Aviv, as did wealthy Jews who immigrated to Israel and were unenthusiastic about local construction.
Maalei Hatzufim Street was once called the Italian ghetto because it had a large concentration of families who came from Italy in the 1930s and built private houses for themselves on large lots. Most of the houses became apartment buildings over the years, but the street retained its prestige, among other things because it was a cul-de-sac located on Givat Karkur overlooking all of Tel Aviv and because there was a large park on the top of the hill called Gan Hakofim (Monkeys' Garden). To the exclusive ambience of the small street is added the fact that here, on a well-kept but also well-concealed and secure property lives UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey with his wife.
The man who built the house at 19 Maalei Hatzufim Street was Maurice Fischer, who was born to a wealthy family in Antwerp, was political secretary of the Jewish Agency in Paris before the state was declared, and then became Israel's ambassador to France, Italy, and Switzerland. Maurice Fischer's son, veteran art collector Yona Fischer, won the Israel Prize for his work. In a 2015 interview, he talked about the house and said that his father, who liked art, music, and literature, wanted to bring Europe with him to Israel.
The house that Fischer built was located on a 2.4-dunam (0.6-acre) lot on the hill with a view in the direction of the sea. The two-story house was designed by a Belgian architect and built in a simple, clear, and elegant style clearly reflecting the modern European mood in fashion at the time. The house's facade facing the street is rather opaque, but there is a window on the second floor that highlights the house's horizontalness and gives the roof a feeling of floating. On the rear façade facing the view, there is a large window. The house was surrounded by a garden like a small forest that sloped downward towards the bottom of Givat Karkur and was part of its charm.
Architect Yehuda Feigin and the Nakash brothers bought the house 30 years ago. The brothers founded Jordache, a successful jeans company, in the 1970s. In Israel, their holdings include Arkia Airlines Ltd. and the Orchid and Setai hotel chain, and their wealth is estimated at over $1 billion. Feigin established his firm, now managed by his sons Yoel and Dov, in the house. The firm is known mostly for designing large hotels, such as the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat, the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, the Beresheet Hotel in Mitze Ramon, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem, and the Setai Hotel in Jaffa.
10 years ago, Feigin and the Nakash brothers combined to promote a plan including division of the existing lot into two parts, preservation of the existing building (300 meters above ground level) and construction of 120 square meters below ground level, and concentration of most of the approved building rights in the northern lot (Lot 404c), including all of the concessions. The plan totals 1,386 square meters above ground level and 2,300 square meters below ground level. The new project has an entrance from Maale Tzufim Street and also from the slope of the hill at the end of Hamelech Yanai Alley.
There is no doubt that in comparison with other projects built in recent years in Ramat Gan, this project stands out in its environment and offers a new design standard to a far greater extent than typical mutations of National Outline Plan 38 in Ramat Gan, which offer low buildings puffed up with crude tasteless architecture. The terraced structure and pergolas on the balconies on the downslope are designed to preserve the feeling of organic growth. The style is quite restrained, not really foreign to the neighboring Bauhaus private house, and it is obvious that thought has been devoted even to the design and selection of the finishing details.
In July 2016, the Nakash brothers put nine of the 12 apartments up for sale. On the m.g.group website marketing the project, the marketers make it clear that each apartment covers a floor, which provides privacy and convenience for the tenants. A note on the website saying that the occupancy form (Form 4) will be granted soon is especially intriguing, because although two years have passed since construction was completed, the project is still unoccupied. The Ramat Gan municipality told us that the developers had not provided all the necessary authorizations and had therefore not even asked for Form 4.
Avi Hormaro, the Nakash brothers' representative in Israel, says that the private house belongs to the Feigin family and the apartment building to the Nakash family, which has not yet decided what it wants to do with all of the apartments. Some have been offered for sale and some may be used as a second apartment for family members. Asked why there was still no Form 4, he answered, "There are all sorts of bureaucratic matters. I'm not familiar with the details."
Ramat Gan city architect Erez Tal makes is clear that the Ramat Gan municipality is currently devising a policy that also applies to hilltops (Gan Avraham, Gan Shaul-Hakofim, and Gan Habanim). He says, "We are now preparing the Lev Hair plan. Its boundaries are Jabotinsky Street on the north, the city of Givatayim on the south, Ben Gurion Boulevard on the east, and the Rishonim neighborhood on the west. This encompasses the biggest concentration of buildings designated for preservation, the wooded streets (Bialik Street and Herzl Street), the stairways leading to the hills, and the hills. On the other hand, we want to accommodate renewal of buildings that need renewal. Our challenge is to do this in a balanced way. We plan to restrict construction in the area of Gan Shaul. The hilltops are areas featuring low construction (residential area A according to the urban building plan's definitions). This area does not have high-density construction and will stay that way. We do not want to create high-density and high-rise construction, because then the hilltops will be covered, but you won't see the hilltop and all the special nature values and views will be lost."
"Globes": Does that mean that you will take care to preserve the private houses on the hilltops?
Tal: "In other places in Ramat Gan, the land zoning allows high-density construction, but the zoning for the hilltops is for private housing units."
In other words, it will not be possible now to create a project like the one on Maale Hatzufim Street.
"This lot has a lot of rights and in principle the building will be preserved. We aren't looking to take away anyone's property rights."