|Documentation and survey of Irrigation pool, Ridvan well and the Na’aman mills|
|Orderer||The World Baha’i Center|
Arch. Amir Freundlich|
Arch. Yaara Shaltiel
Arch. Ram Shoeff
Eng. Yael Rosental
The Ridvan Gardens (Persian; meaning: paradise), which are sacred to the Bahais, are adjacent to the southern entrance to Akko. The World Baha’i Center initiated a project to develop parts of the site prior to opening the gardens to Baha’i pilgrims and the visiting public.
The aim of the work was to gather factual information and analyze it for the purpose of drawing up a program for the site. The documentation work and survey focused on three historic installations: the irrigation pool in Pirdoz Gardens, the Antillean well at the northern end of Ridvan Gardens and the flour mill compound south of them.
The Templar’s “King’s Mills”, like the Order of the Holy Spirit of Montpelier Gardens and the Gardens of the Genovese order, were apparently located on the site of the Ridvan Gardens or nearby. Among the antiquities present there are the remains of an ancient construction that is probably Crusader, ceramic finds from the Byzantine and Crusader periods and a single coin dating to the Ayyubid period that was found there. It is reasonable to assume that the remains of the flour mills were built on top of earlier remains. The installations at the site raise numerous questions and an archaeological study of them remains to be done.
Both traditional and functional building technologies were employed in the construction of the flour mills. Yet having said that the elements that were utilized in the irrigation pool installation were used solely for the sake of their ornamentation and elegance. This is especially apparent in the trickling steps by means of which the pool was filled; the peripheral water channels; the copper faucets that were used in emptying the pool and the pilasters and corner columns in the pool’s facades. Moreover, the Antillean well at the end of the Ridvan Gardens island was meant to pump water to a fountain c. 85 m to the south which flowed from it to channels that irrigated the garden’s flowerbeds. All of these underscore the special attention that was paid to the architectural and landscape characteristics of the place and the integration of the aesthetic aspect with the functional aspect. The extraordinary aesthetic and landscape qualities of the gardens stem from a combination of the water systems, the landscape architectural elements, and a wide variety of flora. Laurence Oliphant was correct in his description of the spirit of the place when he wrote, “Coming upon it suddenly is like a scene in fairy land…The stream is fringed with weeping-willows, and the spot with its wealth of water, its thick shade, and air fragrant with jasmine and orange blossoms, forms an ideal retreat from the heat of summer”.
Two of the three installations that were surveyed are Antillean wells. Their pumping technology is very similar to the hinanot (Avitsur 1972) – the tradition customary in regions that have a high and abundant water table. The two wells are evidence of the technology that was prevalent in the vicinity of the Gulf of Haifa and the Na’aman Marsh which was used for pumping water and filling storage installations (Tridle Map 1930: 1:5000). Each well has a different purpose: one was used to fill a pool (for irrigation and bathing) and the other provided water for a fountain.
The flour mills were built using traditional technology that exploited water power for milling. The flour mills, with their fifteen pairs of millstones, were powered by water from the Na’aman River diverted from the original channel (the lowest known water level for a water powered mill in the country) and with the traditional technology of a horizontal paddle wheel. In the absence of significant topographic elevation or a sufficient water column, tapered horizontal channels were utilized instead of the traditional sluice in the coastal mills. The number of mills concentrated in this spot testifies to it being a large regional industrial installation; hence its importance.
State of Preservation
The state of preservation of the three installations at Ridvan Gardens – the pool, the well and the flour mill complex – is quite rare for our time and place. The two wells, particularly that of Ridvan, despite it structural condition, is in a rare state of preservation, including the gears, axle, drum and storage pool. The well that is parallel to it, to the west, and the adjacent pool are evidence of a complete irrigation unit that comprises a well and pool, examples of which are known from the plantations and irrigation installations along the coastal plain. The completeness of the irrigation pool and the degree of detail and magnificence evidenced in it are indeed noteworthy.
The flour mill complex, including its channels, vaults and buildings, is the only one of its size and state of preservation in the country. Fifteen pairs of millstones were apparently operated simultaneously in five structures. For the sake of comparison the largest of the Yarkon River mills (Mir Mill) consisted of up to 13 pairs of millstones and the one at ‘Seven Mills’ included up to ten pairs and the state of preservation of the buildings at both sites falls considerably short of that of the complex in Ridvan Gardens. The relative completeness of its southern façade, for a distance of c. 75 m, is an expression of the size and significance of the complex.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The Ridvan Gardens in general and the installations in particular are of great cultural importance in a variety of fields. They have architectural, historical and technological value; from a religious and sacred standpoint they are significant and they are also of value from the standpoint of nature and landscape. The combination of the gardens’ values and their harmonious integration in this particular parcel of land characterizes the site and constitute its enchantment and singularity in time and in the region.
In order to ensure the plan’s success, it is incumbent upon the planners to present and express all of the site’s values in the development plan in as harmonious and delightful a manner as they were in the past. Consequently the following points should be paid attention to:
· The conservation measures and development should be carried out with reverence and sensitivity to the holiness of the place.
· The development and renovation of the installations will be an integral part of the overall plan of Ridvan Gardens.
· A strict balance must be maintained between the renovation of the installations and respecting the adjacent buildings which are holy to the Bahais.
· With regard to the development measures and the presentation of the installations, the planners should strive to restore them to the state they were in at the time when the Baha'u'llah was alive.
· The exposure of the installations should be completed, including sectional trenches for each installation, in those places where it is required prior to designing a program and implementing a detailed plan.
· The function of the parks should be considered in the context of urban and regional planning.
· The preservation of the traditional installations is important from a historical and research standpoint. In order to illustrate the traditional technology it is recommended that the installations be put into use as they originally were.
· Any modern intervention should be clearly distinguishable from the original remains by means of material, finish or any other marking provided it is distinctive and legible. In a place where the original component or appearance of the installation is in doubt it is recommended the restoration of the installation be done in such a manner that it is reversible.
· It is recommended that a team of experts drawn from a multitude of specialties be formed to deal with every subject pertaining to the development plan of the site and that this team will accompany the development process throughout its entire length. The team will provide a response to all aspects that will be affected by the plan: landscape architecture, conservation architecture, archaeology, physical conservation, curatorial work and presentation, engineering, hydrology, ecology and site management.
Avitsur S. 1963. A Survey of Water-Powered Installations in the Land of Israel (1953-1955).
Tel Aviv, (Hebrew).
Avitsur S. 1972. Ancient Pumping Installations. Tel Aviv. (Hebrew).
Avitsur S. 1976. Man and His World – An Atlas of the History of Tools and Manufacturing
Installations in the Land of Israel. Jerusalem. (Hebrew).
Avitsur S. 1994. Installations in their Landscapes – Chapters in the Industrial Archaeology of
the Land of Israel. Tel Aviv. (Hebrew).
Shur N. 1990. History of Akko. Tel Aviv (Hebrew).
Baha'i Holy Places in Haifa and the Western Galilee. Nomination for Inscription on the World Heritage list. Historical appendix 1, p.26.
To view the figures, click on the figure caption