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.