Archives Building Undergoing Restoration

More than two years ago, while discussing Baha’i buildings inside Talisman9 (the oldest online Baha’i discussion group), one person wrote:

Marble construction has the effect of minimising running costs at the price of a higher capital investment. Perhaps
there are achitects among us who can give us an amortisation estimate:considering that the World Centre is intended to serve the Cause for roughly one thousand years, longevity of construction (and design) is an important consideration.

To which I replied:

Marble is durable – under the right conditions. Those conditions do not exist in Haifa. This is a port city which has a lot of industrial pollution. As well, it houses an oil refinery right at the foot of the mountain which spews strong and corrosive chemicals. Carrarra marble is among the finest, most expensive marbles there is. For Pete’s sake! Michaelangelo’s David is carved from it. I am no expert but to use it and other expensive forms of marble in such a hostile condition, not only leaves the project managers and architects open to charges of incompetence; it is simply criminal to flush so much money down the drain.

As you probably know, the Archives building is the oldest structure on the Arc. Designed by Mason Remey, it was started in late 1954 and finished in 1957 (and it ‘only’ cost $250,000 then – the equivalent of $2 Million now). So it has been standing for less than 50 years. The outside columns are built from Chiampo marble, by the way. Sadly, I have seen the erosion taking place with my own eyes. The marble is flaking in large chunks (about double the size of your thumbnail).

We’re talking about less than 50 years here! I’ve seen ugly red-brick apartment buildings that have withstood time with more grace.

I’m just a lay person, but a Baha’i who is an expert (PhD chemistry) told me that in their estimate, in less than 30 odd years all the buildings now put up will have to undergo major renovation or be completely rebuilt (facades). This is excluding the Archives building which will probably undergo such treatment much, much sooner.

The good news is that there may be a reprieve coming soon. There are some efforts being made (not allowed to call it lobbying!) to get the refinery to relocate. This is the classical NIMBY principle – not in my back yard. Israel is a tiny country and they don’t have a lot of places to tuck in oil refineries. Chances are slim, but if they do relocate it, it may halt the damage to the buildings. If they don’t, well…I’d rather not imagine our children having to raise $500 Million to rebuild the Arc.

In any condition, the best thing we can look forward to is a halt to the damage. Removing the refinery and other industrial complexes at the foot of the mountain will not reverse the damage.

*********

Just a little over two years after, here is a current picture worth nine thousand words:

bahai-archives-restoration-haifa.jpg

Source of Picture: Sholeh who is currently working in Haifa

If you’re not familiar with the Baha’i World Center, the picture shows the Center for the Study of the Text to the left and to the right in the distance is the Archives building wrapped in scaffolding as it undergoes restoration work. Click for the full size picture.

Here is what the Israeli government says about the air quality around Haifa:

In Israel, the most problematic air pollutant, as shown by air quality monitoring carried out since 1970, is sulphur dioxide (SO2). Relatively high concentrations of SO2 emitted for the most part by power plants and oil refineries are routinely monitored in the Ashdod area and the Haifa Bay. One of the reasons for this is the high sulphur content of the heavy fuel oil in use in Israel. The Haifa Bay, with the most intense industrial activity in the country, coupled with the difficult atmospheric dispersion conditions caused by the influence of the Mediterranean Sea and the complex topography of Mount Carmel, is probably the most polluted area in the country, followed by Ashdod as a close second.

*********

Of course this will only serve to reopen the debate among Baha’is about the massive scale and decadence of the building projects on Mount Carmel. While local and national communities find themselves lacking the most basic needs for centers, the funds they raise are funneled to Haifa to build marble buildings which are corroded in record time. And which will have to be rebuilt, probably in our lifetime.

Why not kick start the fund raising efforts of the “Arc Project II: Fund Harder”? After all, when you start talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, pretty soon you’re talking real money.

And I’m sure the hungry, poor, downtrodden, and orphans.. you know, the unwashed masses who Abdu’l-Baha just happened to care for personally in His lifetime, don’t mind waiting while we build, rebuild, and restore and then renovate, the Baha’i World Center. They, more than anyone else, know a thing or two about priorities.

Somebody call the Italian quarries stat! In a few decades we’re going to need more of that luscious marble.

  • Fritz Gormann

    When I was on Pilgrimage in 1972 it was a Pilgrimage of the soul.
    When I went again in 2005, it was a pilgrimage of marble and steel.
    Pilgrimage had lost its warmth and the faith was efficient and well oiled machine, like a visit to the Vatican.

    I spent an afternoon on Mount Carmel. I could see the pillars and the fa?§ade of the archives building looking a little worn out.

    We didn’t need those places for the Kings, we needed buildings that would do the job and last, and last, and last.

    I have lived to see the sun of Baha-u-llah rise; will I live to see it set, also?

    Fritz

  • Fritz Gormann

    When I was on Pilgrimage in 1972 it was a Pilgrimage of the soul.
    When I went again in 2005, it was a pilgrimage of marble and steel.
    Pilgrimage had lost its warmth and the faith was efficient and well oiled machine, like a visit to the Vatican.

    I spent an afternoon on Mount Carmel. I could see the pillars and the fa?§ade of the archives building looking a little worn out.

    We didn’t need those places for the Kings, we needed buildings that would do the job and last, and last, and last.

    I have lived to see the sun of Baha-u-llah rise; will I live to see it set, also?

    Fritz

  • Sercxu

    Sadly, poor choices in building materials and an inability to properly conserve them is not an isolated phenomenon in the Baha’i world. Baha’is in the United States will be quite familiar with the “Kingdom Project,” which had (has?) as one of its aims raising money for the restoration of the House of Worship in Wilmette.

    Of course, the House of Worship is of similar age to the Archives building. Opened, if memory serves, in 1953, after a protracted construction process–Abdu’l-Baha laid the cornerstone in 1912, for heaven’s sake–it took only fifty years for it to deteriorate to the point where it needed restoration. You can do the math–forty years to build, fifty years to deteriorate.

    And why was that? Because the only way Louis Bourgeois’ complicated designs could be produced for anything resembling a reasonable budget was to use what is essentially concrete mixed with quartz–and this on the shore of Lake Michigan, in an area known for the severity of its winter weather! As a result, it handles Chicago weather about as well as concrete does, which ain’t sayin’ much.

    Compare and contrast this with the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, which had its design simplified from the original plans drawn by Truman Angell so that it could be constructed of granite. As beautiful as the Wilmette House of Worship is, they’d have been better off following the Mormons’ example. As things stand now, the Baha’is will essentially be rebuilding it once a generation, as they will with the buildings on the Arc. It would be funny if it weren’t so damn sad.

  • Sercxu

    Sadly, poor choices in building materials and an inability to properly conserve them is not an isolated phenomenon in the Baha’i world. Baha’is in the United States will be quite familiar with the “Kingdom Project,” which had (has?) as one of its aims raising money for the restoration of the House of Worship in Wilmette.

    Of course, the House of Worship is of similar age to the Archives building. Opened, if memory serves, in 1953, after a protracted construction process–Abdu’l-Baha laid the cornerstone in 1912, for heaven’s sake–it took only fifty years for it to deteriorate to the point where it needed restoration. You can do the math–forty years to build, fifty years to deteriorate.

    And why was that? Because the only way Louis Bourgeois’ complicated designs could be produced for anything resembling a reasonable budget was to use what is essentially concrete mixed with quartz–and this on the shore of Lake Michigan, in an area known for the severity of its winter weather! As a result, it handles Chicago weather about as well as concrete does, which ain’t sayin’ much.

    Compare and contrast this with the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, which had its design simplified from the original plans drawn by Truman Angell so that it could be constructed of granite. As beautiful as the Wilmette House of Worship is, they’d have been better off following the Mormons’ example. As things stand now, the Baha’is will essentially be rebuilding it once a generation, as they will with the buildings on the Arc. It would be funny if it weren’t so damn sad.

  • David M

    Thanks for the interesting article.
    This weblink seems to question its general tenor though:
    http://www.aironline.info/haifa/tekster.cfm?id=4737

    david

  • David M

    Thanks for the interesting article.
    This weblink seems to question its general tenor though:
    http://www.aironline.info/haifa/tekster.cfm?id=4737

    david

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Not at all.

    The Environmental Protection Ministry called Frutarom Industries to an emergency hearing after discovering that an unusual emission of odors from its factory was the cause for the air pollution detected in the Haifa bay area…. The Coalition for Public Health demanded an inquiry be made into why the bay’s monitoring stations – which are connected to the Environmental Ministry’s chief monitoring station – gave out normal readings throughout the event.

    Source: YNetNews

    But you are more than welcome to enter into your own reality in order to escape the one that presents you with facts that are uncomfortable. I suppose a picture showing the rest of the buildings undergoing restoration in a few decades will also be explained away somehow.

    Reality, it seems, needs to take a backseat when blind faith and imitation are involved. No need to actually use your own brain, as Counsellor Murphy said, we are blessed to have the UHJ do all that for us!

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Not at all.

    The Environmental Protection Ministry called Frutarom Industries to an emergency hearing after discovering that an unusual emission of odors from its factory was the cause for the air pollution detected in the Haifa bay area…. The Coalition for Public Health demanded an inquiry be made into why the bay’s monitoring stations – which are connected to the Environmental Ministry’s chief monitoring station – gave out normal readings throughout the event.

    Source: YNetNews

    But you are more than welcome to enter into your own reality in order to escape the one that presents you with facts that are uncomfortable. I suppose a picture showing the rest of the buildings undergoing restoration in a few decades will also be explained away somehow.

    Reality, it seems, needs to take a backseat when blind faith and imitation are involved. No need to actually use your own brain, as Counsellor Murphy said, we are blessed to have the UHJ do all that for us!

  • David M

    > But you are more than welcome to enter into your own reality in order to escape the one that presents you with facts that are uncomfortable… Reality, it seems, needs to take a backseat when blind faith and imitation are involved…

    Thanks, the first half of your post was informative.

    Your second part suggests you read into my posting an intent it was lacking. I always like to know reality, which is why I stopped to read the article in the first place; so the first thing I did was do a search for an SO2 graph, and found the one in question. Given its nature, I raised it back for further comment. I hardly think that merits what you went on to write if you ask me, or anyone.

    david

  • David M

    > But you are more than welcome to enter into your own reality in order to escape the one that presents you with facts that are uncomfortable… Reality, it seems, needs to take a backseat when blind faith and imitation are involved…

    Thanks, the first half of your post was informative.

    Your second part suggests you read into my posting an intent it was lacking. I always like to know reality, which is why I stopped to read the article in the first place; so the first thing I did was do a search for an SO2 graph, and found the one in question. Given its nature, I raised it back for further comment. I hardly think that merits what you went on to write if you ask me, or anyone.

    david

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    David,
    from your comment, it appears as though you are taking a line from Richard Prior: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”

    The result of the air pollution is right there in the picture! Whether one chooses to see the real consequence or a colorful chart which has no bearing on the issue is up to each person.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    David,
    from your comment, it appears as though you are taking a line from Richard Prior: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”

    The result of the air pollution is right there in the picture! Whether one chooses to see the real consequence or a colorful chart which has no bearing on the issue is up to each person.

  • David M

    Baquia,

    The issue here is your most extraordinary attitude to a very simple and very neutral post I made.

    I was not taking a line from Richard prior; i did not even notice his comment, until you just raised it.
    It’s very simply, just as I stated: I read one thing in the article, and then in an unbiased way without any expectations, went to check it as I do with all things irrespective of source, I encountered the graph, and queried it back for comment.

    If you don’t like the fact that someone with a neutral mind raises an appropriate and neutral question, I suggest you avoid typing anything until you think about the way truth is established through simple and neutral exploration; and your use of unfounded attacks on integrity if something is raised for consideration.

    If it was your article (I haven’t looked) then all you would have succeeded in doing is undermining the foundation of the trust in the article, certainly any other that may come from your pen, by showing such a biased approach to the establishment of truth.

    Well, I certainly shall not write any further on this.

    david

  • David M

    Baquia,

    The issue here is your most extraordinary attitude to a very simple and very neutral post I made.

    I was not taking a line from Richard prior; i did not even notice his comment, until you just raised it.
    It’s very simply, just as I stated: I read one thing in the article, and then in an unbiased way without any expectations, went to check it as I do with all things irrespective of source, I encountered the graph, and queried it back for comment.

    If you don’t like the fact that someone with a neutral mind raises an appropriate and neutral question, I suggest you avoid typing anything until you think about the way truth is established through simple and neutral exploration; and your use of unfounded attacks on integrity if something is raised for consideration.

    If it was your article (I haven’t looked) then all you would have succeeded in doing is undermining the foundation of the trust in the article, certainly any other that may come from your pen, by showing such a biased approach to the establishment of truth.

    Well, I certainly shall not write any further on this.

    david

  • http://www.bahaisonline.net Steve Marshall

    Meanwhile, Fariborz Sahba, designer of the Bah??’?­ House of Worship in India and the Terraces of the Shrine of the B??b, pops along to speak at a symposium called “Constructing the Ineffable – Contemporary Sacred Architecture”:

    “The intention of this symposium is to open a discourse between architects, sociologists, philosophers and theologians by engaging an international and interfaith audience in the consideration of the powerful influence religion has come to exert in contemporary civic life, and the concretization of that role in the design and construction of prominent religious buildings.”

  • http://www.bahaisonline.net Steve Marshall

    Meanwhile, Fariborz Sahba, designer of the Bah??’?­ House of Worship in India and the Terraces of the Shrine of the B??b, pops along to speak at a symposium called “Constructing the Ineffable – Contemporary Sacred Architecture”:

    “The intention of this symposium is to open a discourse between architects, sociologists, philosophers and theologians by engaging an international and interfaith audience in the consideration of the powerful influence religion has come to exert in contemporary civic life, and the concretization of that role in the design and construction of prominent religious buildings.”

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