}

Art Kutcher! Where are you??

You can Google Art Kutcher. But you won’t find much. Right now Art, an architect, should be about 70 years old, more or less. I’ve never met the guy, I have no idea what he looks like but whenever I walk down the street in Jerusalem, what I see, or don’t see, is directly related to projects this native of Sioux City, Iowa prevented from happening.

Kutcher was part of a group of architects and planners – most from English-speaking countries – hired by the municipality of Jerusalem in 1971. The Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kolleck decided that the municipality was going to play a more direct role in its own city planning, rather than leaving it to the government. In his short tenure, all Kutcher designed was a parking lot on Mt. Zion. However he did execute a number of before and after sketches of proposed developments like a 21 story hotel just outside the Jaffa Gate, or eight apartment towers and two-500 room hotels in an open field (known as the Omariya plot now Liberty Bell Park) just five hundred yards West of the Old City Walls.

While these developments would have brought in certain economic benefits, they would have ruined the skyline of Jerusalem for decades to come. Kutcher was ordered not to make the sketches public but they always somehow managed to get into the hands of reporters and activists, often eliciting indignation, horror and audible gasps followed by protests and a public outcry. Through his efforts, Kutcher effectively single-handedly prevented the ruination of Jerusalem’s skyline. For all his efforts, Kutcher, who was a tireless worker but still difficult to deal with, was not rehired by Kolleck at the end of his temporary contract, but his work was done and Jerusalem was saved from short sighted government planners and greedy developers.

Since then, his legacy has been chipped away at. New developments are going up all the time and already the view of the Old City Walls from Agron street has been obliterated by the construction of the extremely cheesy Mamila Mall just outside Jaffa Gate. New towers and developments are going up all the time – geared towards well moneyed tourists and part time residents, these are causing rents and property values to increase, making life in the city less affordable for students, artists, young couples and old-time residents. The residents of the city, beaten down by one unresponsive Municipal administration after another have lost the will to protest, surmising correctly that the municipality is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jerusalem’s property developers who don’t give a rat’s ass about the interests and concerns of the hoi polloi.

So Art… if you’re out there, how about popping back to Jerusalem for a bit. We need a shit disturber like you more than ever before. Alternatively, whoever sits in the Mayor’s office after the November 11 municipal elections ought to be mindful of the fact that it takes just one similarly motivated shit disturber armed with nothing more than some sketches and some vision to obliterate otherwise carefully crafted plans.

PS: Tonight at 7 pm at 23 Yehoshua Bin Nun, Jewlicious is co-sponsoring a Meet and Greet with Jerusalem Mayoral candidate Nir Barkat. For more details check out the facebook event page.

Photo credit: chrislilleheim

Source: Jerusalem on Earth by Abraham Rabinovich (1988) – Whose essay The Spoiler: Preserving Jerusalem on pages 195-203 inspired this post.

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Founder of Jewlicious? Publisher? Man I hate titles. I coined the name Jewlicious and I slave over the site. I live in Jerusalem and I need to get some breakfast.
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7 Comments

  1. Batya

    10/6/2008 at 12:49 am

    One of the towers in the OMariya plot was built. I watched it from our Bayit V’gan apt. Yes, it ruined the view or became the view…

  2. Joseph

    11/21/2008 at 7:04 pm

    “New towers and developments are going up all the time – geared towards well moneyed tourists and part time residents…” – So in other words, you’re upset about all those foreigners buying property in Jerusalem. Please keep your xenophobia to yourself. I for one like international cities that are open to all.

  3. ck

    11/22/2008 at 12:05 pm

    No offense Joseph but is English like, not your first language? I have no problem with “foreigners” being in Jerusalem. I love Jerusalem’s cosmopolitan vibe. What I don’t like is municipal development that, rather than being representative of the needs of the entire city, is a wholly owned subsidiary of various luxury property development interests. It’s got nothing to do with xenophobia and everything to do with maintaining a city that is vibrant and multifaceted.

  4. Art Kutcher

    11/24/2008 at 6:50 pm

    And did the Countenance Divine shine forth upon these clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here among these dark satanic mills? William Blake

  5. JC

    12/8/2008 at 2:47 pm

    Art is indeed alive, well, and scrappier than ever. There are few I know (perhaps only one other) with the courage and gumption to say the unpopular, the difficult, to challange the “norm” and to do so backing his rhetoric up with facts. Go Art!!!

  6. Joe Savitzky

    9/2/2013 at 7:45 pm

    Art and I worked together back at the Iriya (Yerushalyim). Along with others (David Fields, Israel Kimhi, Alex Bloch, for instance) we tried to keep what we thought was important to Jerusalem’s heritage. Some successes, but mostly not so.

    Yes, I, too would like to thank Art again. If only I knew how to find him….

    • ck

      9/4/2013 at 8:01 am

      Joe – he replied to this post. I theoretically have his email address… I’d love, LOVE to hear the perspectives of you old timers to recent developments in Jerusalem. What do you think?

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