|Underground Prisoners Museum|
|Survey and documentation of the ‘Policeman’s House’|
|Orderer||Ministry of Defense – the Museum Unit|
Arch. Faina Milshtein|
Eng. Yael Rosental
Eng. Yardena Etgar
A survey and documentation of the “Policeman’s House’ were conducted within the framework of the rehabilitation of the Underground Prisoners Museum located in the Russian Compound, Jerusalem. The work included a physical engineering survey and also historical and architectural documentation in order to create a current basis of information for the purpose of planning conservation intervention in the building.
The Policeman’s House was erected during the British Mandate, between the years 1936-1939, and was referred to by this name because it served as the residence of the Inspector-General of prisons in the country. In the 1950’s two families squatted in the building where they carried out changes in order to adapt it to their needs. For a short period the second floor was also used as an office by the director of the museum. Today the building is abandoned.
Description of the Building
The building is a rectangular two-story structure made of reinforced concrete, steel and Jerusalem stone (5.5 x 11.5 m, c. 7.5 m high). The facades are characterized by a symmetric design. Construction phases are apparent in the northern and southern facades.
The building style was influenced by the art nouveau style. Noteworthy among the building’s elements that are of architectural value is the entrance gate which spreads across almost the entire width of the main façade. The gate is designed as a horseshoe in the center of which is a rectangular opening. The gate and its opening are decorated with a kind of thick concrete trim with terrazzo; terrazzo elements were also incorporated in the design of the window openings, the doors and the floors of the entrances. The interior pavement of the building consists of concrete tiles adorned with drawings. The window elements on the first floor (from the time of the Mandate) are made of Belgian profile and stylized steel gutters. A steel water tank stands on the roof of the building and its design is typical of the 1930’s.
The Building Technology
There are differences in the building technologies that were employed in the construction of the ground floor and the first floor. The walls are built of reinforced concrete and Jerusalem stone; the ground floor walls are 33 centimeters thick while the first floor walls are 27 centimeters thick. The ceilings are made of steel profiles and reinforced concrete; the thickness of the ground floor ceiling is 31 centimeters while that of the first floor is 20 centimeters thick. The roof is flat and made of reinforced concrete and sheets of bitumen sealant, probably a rehabilitation measure that was taken in recent decades. The structural addition on the west of the building is made of exposed concrete, 11-15 centimeters thick; the addition on the southwest of the building is covered with roof tiles.
State of Preservation
The plan of the original building is preserved quite well and there are original architectural elements that have survived in it. Nevertheless, the changes that were implemented in the structure in recent years have resulted in damage to architectural elements, and in the absence of proper maintenance over the years the building has deteriorated to the point that it is now in a hazardous state. The wooden windows on the ground floor are not original and their carpentry work imitates the windows on the floor above.
Several levels of preservation were discerned in the building: moisture in the walls of the ground floor is causing the layer of plaster to separate from the cement; the waterproofing of the roof is damaged and it is consequently leaking in numerous places along its entire surface; the quality of the later construction in the western part of the building is slipshod and is causing structural problems; cracks have formed at the interface of different type materials (these cracks require immediate attention).
A Synopsis of the Guidelines and Recommendations
The historical and architectural documentation, together with the engineering survey that was performed at the site, today provide a framework within which planning decisions can be made regarding the building and its immediate surroundings. The utilization of the building and ongoing maintenance are the key to ensuring its continued existence. We recommend preserving the characteristic of the building and its exterior shape, as well as the eastern, northern and southern facades. In addition we suggest dismantling the new building additions (the concrete enclosures from the 1960’s) and reconstructing them in accordance with a proposed program. The sealed openings should also be returned to their former state.
In order to protect the building from the penetration of rainwater and moisture, drainage is required around the entire perimeter of the building’s foundations. We recommend that the proper drainage of the surface level in the immediate vicinity of the building be attended to. From an architectural standpoint a strip should be paved around the perimeter of the building that will complement the existing terrazzo in the east. The plaster needs to be repaired on the walls in those places where cracks formed at the interface of two different material types. Insofar as the treatment of the roof is concerned, the survey will have to be completed after the joists are fixed and the plaster from the building’s ceiling has been removed. Only then will it be possible to determine the desired manner of treatment. Furthermore, the rehabilitation of the roof will include the creation of roof pitches that will facilitate drainage, and its surfaces will need to be sealed.
At this point in time the conservation, rehabilitation and development work ented due to a lon the building have not yet been implemack of funding.
To view the figures, click on the figure caption