|The Old City of Akko (Acre)|
|Old Akko, Hamam al-Pasha|
|The implementation of urgent (“first aid”) conservation and restoration measures|
|Orderer||Old Akko Development Company, Ltd.|
Hamam al-Pasha is located in the northeastern part of the city and it constitutes an integral part of a chain of important public buildings in the city. The Serai is located to its east and behind it is the large Al-Jazar Mosque; the fortress and prison lie to the north of the hamam and the Turkish bazaar is located to its southeast.
The building was erected by the ruler Ahmed Jazar al-Pasha in 1781, probably at the same time as the large mosque (Al-Jazar Mosque) was constructed in the city. The importance of the hamam stems not only from its beauty and the quality of its construction but also from its central location in the city and the different cultural and social functions it fulfilled. The hamam has undergone few changes over the course of the years (elements have been altered and new entrances have been opened) and it is defined as a single period structure. There are those who believe that Jazar himself was the architect and engineer who designed and oversaw the construction of these two buildings.
The structure functioned as a hamam until the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. From 1954 until the 1990’s it housed the municipal museum and since then it has been on display to the public as part of the tour of the fortress and its surroundings.
We believe the hamam was built on the ruins of a bathhouse from the Crusader period. Its northern and eastern walls are positioned on top of the walls in the underground Crusader level and the northern and eastern alleys that delineate the hamam are located above underground Crusader streets. The structural overlapping of the Crusader and Ottoman levels also occurs in the Serai to the east and the fortress located to the north of the hamam.
The eastern part of the hamam was probably built during an earlier period; the construction technology in it is different (in the area including the current entrance to the structure, the storerooms and the water reservoir).
The different uses of the building are arranged according to the level of the temperature in the various spaces: an open courtyard; the summer dressing room – used as a rest area and meeting place with open windows on three sides; the corridor – used as a passageway to the heated parts of the hamam; the winter dressing room – it is moderately heated, has a single window and was used as a rest area and meeting place during the winter months; the tepid bath – a lukewarm heated bathing area with rooms for private bathing; the hot bath – an extremely hot bathing facility with sauna-like steam, it includes rooms used for private bathing; the furnace – where the fire is located and the water vapor is produced that heats the floors of the rooms and the chambers.
During 2000-2003 the Antiquities Authority carried out conservation measures that included: arranging openings in the western façade, treating the hot bathing area including the glass in the roof, cleaning and replacing marble slabs and cleaning the tepid bathing area.
By the beginning of 2003 the development of the experiential museum, which is a presentation of the daily life in Akko during the Ottoman period, was begun. The renovation work included installing a new electrical infrastructure, building additions (mainly in the courtyard), breaching new openings etc. The work was performed by Old Akko Development Company, Ltd., accompanied by the Conservation Department of the Antiquities Authority.
Our part in the conservation of the building focused on some of its decorative and architectural components. Our activity was carried out during the renovation work and ceased when the site was opened to the public. Our involvement was mainly in the summer dressing room and did not address the assortment of conservation problems existing in the building that were surveyed in 2000.
Treatment of Decorative Elements
The walls of the hamam are adorned with painted ceramic tiles of various kinds and qualities. Over the years these tiles have undergone different treatments. The missing original tiles have been mostly replaced with new tiles bearing different decorations. Today there are only a few of the original tiles that remain alongside a wide range of newer tiles that have replaced them. Most of the conservation problems afflicting the tiles have resulted from prolonged neglect and shoddy maintenance.
We determined five main problems with the tiles for which we adapted a specific conservation treatment plan.
- Missing tiles (or parts of tiles). This problem was treated in the past in several different ways: various kinds of tiles were used as replacements that differ from the original or similar tiles were used without taking into consideration the continuity of the painting; photographs of the tiles were glued in place of missing tiles, the photographs are mostly too dark and over time the paper has peeled from the wall; cement based plaster has been used to replace missing tiles.
- The tiles are partially or completely detached from the wall.
- Cracked and broken tiles occurring mainly in the peripheral areas.
- Empty joints or joints that were grouted with cement based plaster that was applied haphazardly.
- The glazed layer of the tile suffers from a plethora of problems: cracks and lacunae; the glazed layer has a dull rough surface (The glazed surface of the original tiles apparently underwent changes as a result of a chemical reaction. These tiles are more difficult to clean because the dirt is more firmly embedded in the rough surface); crystallization of salt below the glazed layer causes the latter to detach; flaking paint, lime and cement based plaster from previous renovations, dust and salt on the surface of the tiles.
As previously mentioned, the treatment was focused in the summer dressing room. We conducted experiments whereby we replaced missing tiles with painted plaster.
The work was conducted in the following stages:
We reinforced the detached tiles by injecting liquid lime based hydraulic bonding material and ceramic powder. Tiles that were completely detached as a result of dismantling the poured cement of the northern platform were rebuilt using lime based bonding material. Broken tiles that were detached from the wall were glued using marble glue (Tenax) before their reconstruction. After reinforcing the tiles on the wall of the northern platform a layer was applied separating the tiles from the poured concrete. In the last phase we filled the empty joints and cracks with lime based bonding material. At the end of the process the layers of dust and dirt were removed using water and a scalpel.
- Removing the cement and filling the cavities with four layers of lime based bonding material.
- Applying the top layer consisting of lime and ground marble. The layer that was applied is 1-2 mm thick and was smoothed using an Italian trowel in order to achieve as smooth and sealed a surface as possible.
- Tracing the decoration of the adjacent tile onto drafting paper.
- Transferring the drawing for painting by means of tracing paper to the prepared plaster layer; this was done one day after the application of the plaster.
- Painting the tile with water colors. One of the tiles was painted black and white and the other in color in order to determine which method provides better results.
- Removing the cement grout that was in the joints and replacing it with lime based material.
Four round corner columns support the dome in the summer dressing room. Three of them are granite and the fourth is made of dressed kurkar stones. We assume that the three granite columns were made by dividing one large column that was brought to the site from Caesarea.
The conservation problems encountered with the granite columns are as follows: the surface of the column is rough; lime remains adhere to the surface and in the depressions below the surface of the column; stone is missing from the lower parts of the three granite columns; missing stone was replaced with a cement based material without taking into consideration the original color of the stone. In the southwestern kurkar column the joints are either empty or are grouted with unsuitable material. The same pertains to the stone work around the four columns.
The conservation measures consisted of various stages involving the cleaning and replacing of stone and grouting.
1. Cleaning – the main difficulty in cleaning the columns was the rough surface that did not facilitate efficient mechanical cleaning. We conducted two experiments in order to determine the most efficient method of cleaning: (a) cotton compresses with water applied for half an hour followed by mechanical cleaning using a scalpel – this method provided good results but is very slow when cleaning a large surface; (b) compresses containing EDTA, ammonium carbonate, CMC and water.
The work was carried out in the following stages:
The results after cleaning were satisfactory: c. 90% of the colored flakes were removed and the columns no longer appear white.
- Spreading the mixture on the surface
- Closely covering the mixture layer with a nylon sheet to prevent the drying and evaporation of the chemicals
- Waiting one half hour
- Scraping the surface using a brush with synthetic fibers and thoroughly washing the surface with large amounts of water.
- Scraping more problematic areas with a wire brush.
2. Replacing the missing stone work using painted plaster. This was conducted on the northeastern and southeastern columns.
The work stages were:
3. Pointing up the joints using a lime based grout.
- Replacing the missing parts at the bottom of the columns with a number of layers of lime based bonding material.
- Applying an upper layer of lime and crushed marble based material. A 1-2 mm thick layer was applied and smoothed using an Italian trowel in order to attain as smooth and sealed a surface as possible.
- Painting the upper layer with water colors that resemble the color of granite. It is necessary to wait at least one day after applying the layer of plaster before painting.
We identified four common characteristics of the problems affecting the building’s floors:
- Wear as a result of use – the stones are worn and crumbling; their edges are broken. The yellow limestone blocks are in a particularly critical state and some disintegrate when touched. We anticipate that the problem of disintegrating pavers will become more acute over time as a result of the presence of visitors in the building. We expect this situation to be exacerbated to the point that it will no longer be possible to treat the original stones; rather it will be necessary to replace the original stones with new stone. Neglecting this issue will result in both safety and aesthetic problems.
- Slabs were replaced using unsuitable stone.
- Original stones were replaced with new stone while not taking into account the shade of the replacement stones.
- The presence of cement based bonding material on the surface of the pavement (especially in the area of the corridor and toilets).
We attempted to scrape the remains of the cement from the floor using a chisel and putty knife. We achieved fairly satisfactory results where the surface is smooth and complete; however, in those areas where the stone is eroded and cracked and the surface is irregular, the scraping is difficult and slow and the results are mediocre at best.
During the renovations it was necessary to dismantle the existing pavement in order to install underground utility infrastructures. Our part in this process was to minimize the damage to the original stone pavement. Most of the pavement was set back in place after the infrastructures were installed but there were several pieces that were damaged beyond repair and they had to be replaced.
Infrastructure installation was performed in the following spots:
- The summer dressing room – below the pavement there is a channel in which the fountain’s water pipe lay; at some point later on the channel was blocked with cement. Within the framework of the renovations conduit containing electrical wiring were inserted in the channel. The cement was dismantled and the original water pipe was removed. After the electrical conduit was installed, the missing portions of pavement were replaced with marble slabs and black stone similar to those in the original pavement (we were unable to obtain black stone that is identical to the original pavers). The new stone is shinier than the original stone and can therefore be identified.
- The entrance to the summer dressing room from the direction of the courtyard (from the east) – in order to install a door a section of pavement was dismantled and was replaced with new limestone pavers similar to the original.
- The area of the corridor and toilets – one of the channels that pass below the hamam is open in several spots. The openings were closed with stone slabs set into iron frames in order to facilitate access to the channel.
- The hot bath – we removed whole marble tiles and returned them to their original places following the installation of an electrical infrastructure.
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