|The Old City of Akko (Acre)|
|The ‘Città di Roma’ International Conservation Center in Old 'Akko|
|The Conservation and Rehabilitation of the Building|
Arch. Ido Rosental|
Arch. Yaara Shaltiel
During October 2009-June 2010 conservation measures were implemented in the International Conservation Center building. The conservation work, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was carried out by Johnny Peterson (conservator in charge), with assistance from Avner Hillman , Yigal Hanatayev, Danny Sibony, and the Avner Gilad Building Conservation and Restoration Company, Amos Goldstein (project manager), Arch. Ya'ara Shaltiel and Arch. Ido Rosenthal (documentation and conservation planning), Ing. Jacob Shaffer (survey and engineering planning), Yoram Sa'ad (conservation work manager) Kassa Ismaro, Gadamo Wazapo, Tedi Wodi Worka, Tespaya Maberto, David Zaoodo-Damoza, Jacob Getthoyn (workers), in addition to these seventeen people on unemployment and 8 workers from a man-power company were engaged in the project.
Students at the center conducted studies documenting the building.
The International Conservation Center building is situated in the south part of 'Akko (Block 18011, Lot 175), near the seawall and faces the Gulf of Haifa and Mount Carmel (Fig. 1).
The characteristics of the ground floor, the vaults and thickness of the walls, as well as the water system that was discovered, indicate that parts of this story were constructed in the Crusader period. The documentation of the building revealed that the structure was initially built as a courtyard house. It seems that in the second half of the nineteenth century the courtyard was closed off and the first story was converted to a central hall house. The building was now a luxurious villa consisting of two stories (Fig. 2, 3).
In the early twentieth century the property belonged to the Ha'wa family, one of the most affluent families in the Old City. In 1950 Assad Ha'wa and Chaim Shchein converted the building to a hotel, and in the early 1970s it was leased to the Youth Hostel Association and renovations were also carried out in it. From the late 1980s until 2001 the hostel was operated by a private concessionaire who was a resident of the city. In 2005, the Israel Antiquities Authority acquired the Ha'wa family’s share of the building thanks to a generous donation and in conjunction with the Old 'Akko Development Company and the city of 'Akko established an international center specializing in the training of conservation professionals.
The goal of the project is to rehabilitate the structure and prepare it for the activities slated to be conducted in the International Conservation Center. The documentation file served as a data bank for planning the rehabilitation and conservation.
The conservation and rehabilitation measures of the building were performed in stages. First the ground floor was prepared so as to enable the center to operate in the building. The upper story was partially treated and the intervention there will be completed in the future. During the course of the work details were revealed that shed light on the original structure and the various phases of its development.
The Preservation Problems
Numerous preservation problems were identified in the building, including:
· Broken roof tiles and water leaks
· Cement-based plaster applied to the building’s interior, stone surfaces that are saturated with cement
· Mortar missing from joints
· A crack in the western part of the southern façade
· A poured concrete floor situated on top of rotted wooden beams
· A wooden floor that has settled
· A marble column supporting a ceiling that has settled
· The original plaster in the cistern is crumbling
· The marble lining of the steps is broken
· The marble capstone on the cistern is covered with cement and painted
The Conservation Measures
· Removal of damaged roof tiles and installation of new terra rossa tiles
· Dismantling poured concrete from above a wooden ceiling
· Removing cinder blocks used to seal off the openings
· Removing cement-based plaster and exposing the stone
· Cleaning cement from the stone surfaces
· Cleaning the joints and pointing them up with lime-based mortar
· Installation of stainless steel anchors
· Reinforcing a concrete header
· Renewing stone lining
· Replacing stone to close a crack
· Supporting marble columns on the upper story
· Pouring a new column base
· Conserving a marble pavement
· Stabilizing the edges of the original plaster in the cistern and filling in lacunae with lime-based mortar
This facade, which faces the southern side of the street, had the electrical and communication infrastructures removed which were suspended from it. Lime-based mortar was used to point up the stone joints. Windows that were installed in the structure in recent years were replaced with windows that were built according to historic pictures. The ‘trifor’ opening, which characterizes the central hall building, was restored on the upper floor; however, the balcony that was documented in the photograph from the early twentieth century was not reconstructed (Figs. 4, 5).
The Original Front Door
The original wooden door was removed from its hinges in order that the wood could be conserved. Eleven layers of paint were documented and removed from the door. Concrete lintels that were cast on the stone in the outer façade were removed and the original stone lintels were exposed (Fig. 6, 7). The door was repainted a shade of gray-light blue and returned to the opening (Fig. 8).
The Ground Floor
The Central Hall (R104). Dimensions: 5.5 × 10.3 m. The opening of a well, probably dating to the Crusader period, was discovered in the western wall. Two window openings were revealed in the eastern wall which had been sealed at the time of the British Mandate. They connect the central hall to the room located to its east (Fig. 9).
The poor state of preservation of the original cedar wood necessitated extensive intervention. After the ceiling was documented (Fig. 10), it was decided to replace it with a new ceiling using traditional technology (Fig. 11).
The ceiling above the stairwell was reinforced by means of iron pipes installed below it and a concrete surface was poured above it on which a terrazzo pavement was placed. The original wooden ceiling was exposed and documented, and it was determined that the wood was in an advanced state of deterioration. We decided to dismantle it and thereby open the stairwell between the ground floor and the floor above.
The doorway lintels in the central hall, which were not original, were replaced with wooden lintels. Some of the openings were closed with plasterboard and will be treated in the future.
Southwestern Room (R102). Dimensions: 4.1 × 6.3 m. Modern plaster was removed from this space and sealed door and window openings were exposed in it that led to the adjacent rooms to the north (R103) and south (R101). The openings were left closed. A modern window that was installed in the opening facing the alley to the west was dismantled, and a wooden window was installed in its place.
Southeastern Room (R105). Dimensions: 5.8 × 5.8 m. Toilets and a kitchenette that were built of reinforced concrete in this space were dismantled. Following their removal arched niches were revealed in the eastern wall (Fig. 12). The removal of the later terrazzo floor led to the exposure of an original marble floor arranged in a checkerboard pattern (Fig. 13) and an original meda floor. Gaps in the meda floor were completed utilizing compatible lime-based mortar.
The House’s Hamam (R108). Dimensions: 2.0 × 2.1 m. This space, which was used as a storeroom, was cleaned of its contents and it was discovered it was where the house’s hamam was originally located. Remains of the heating system: a copper boiler and copper plumbing were located in a recess closed off with cinderblocks. The hamam’s ceiling is vaulted with openings for lighting in it made of terra cotta pipes (Fig. 14) on which blue glass cones were placed (Fig. 15). The hamam was documented; however because of budgetary reasons no conservation measures have yet to be implemented in it.
Passageway (R112) next to the hamam. Dimensions: 2.1 × 3.0 m. Four layers of later pavement were dismantled until the original stone floor was uncovered. This is situated at the level of the floor in the central hall. A drainage channel was discovered along the edges of the pavement which was probably used in an early phase, and remains of a large ceramic vessel were found that was probably used to store oil (Fig. 16). A column drum that was exposed on the eastern side of the space served as an opening for drawing water from a vaulted underground cavity that was used as a cistern.
Other Spaces: Room 107. Dimensions 2.5 × 4.1 m. This space, which is adjacent to the alley, was used as a kitchenette and has since been converted to a toilet. Later additions were removed from this room and a small doorway that was breached in it was converted to a window. Debris was cleaned from the rear rooms (109, 110), as well as the courtyards (102, 103) and the western alley (101). The doorway leading to Room 111 from the courtyard was sealed with stone in order to prevent entry into the building from that direction.
Stairs. On the northern side of the central hall is a staircase that leads to the upper story. The banister was cleaned, reinforced with metalwork and fixtures and repainted (Fig. 17). A modern wooden lattice that was installed in an arched opening in the northern wall next to the stairs was removed and a glass guardrail was installed in its place. The stone steps have not yet been treated.
The Upper Story
This floor has not yet been prepared for use; however, a number of measures intended to provide initial treatment and stabilization have been implemented.
Under the guidance of Jacob Shaffer, the conservation engineer, stainless steel anchors were installed in the floor and ceiling so as to reinforce the structure (Rooms 212 and 213).
In the central hall temporary supports were installed in the ceiling and marble columns that support it (Fig. 18).
Roof of the Building. A section of the concrete ceiling (Room 216) was renewed, the reinforced iron was replaced and concrete was poured. Roof tiles on the southwestern side of the building (above Rooms 212, 213, 215) were replaced, as were a number of joists used to reinforce the roof construction.
The intervention in the building included the installation of infrastructures for the purpose of preparing areas to be used as classrooms, a library, toilets and a kitchen: a new electrical system; air conditioners and air conditioning preparation. The air conditioning motors were located on the roof so as not to disturb the facades; new plumbing; smoke detectors; security cameras and motion detectors.
Updated: June 2012
To view the figures, click on the figure caption