Jerusalem is, and not only for me, an enchanting city. All of us in HAMR feel the same way about it. In the spring of 2017 my friend Lukáš Přibyl, who is the head of the Czech Centre in Tel Aviv, approached me with news that he and Mrs. Francoise Cafri from the Jerusalem Municipality possibly found a way to build an artistic object, a tower, in the center of Jerusalem. And that it would be a great way of celebrating the 100th anniversary of founding of Czechoslovakia, as well as the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. Of course I did not hesitate, not even for a second.
The most exciting piece of information was that the tower could be erected in the very heart of the new part of the city, in the extensive gardens of the Hansen House. Back in the 19th century, this historical building served as a hospital for patients with leprosy. Nowadays, it houses a prominent art center. The tower would rise there as a magnificent artistic “artefact”, while at the same time offering visitors a spectacular view of the surroundings.
Right away we set to work and an idea occurred to us – that it should resemble a cactus. Why? Well, when a cactus blooms with a beautiful garland of flowers, in its resilient and prickly nature it is a movingly beautiful plant. And I found it symbolic. This combination of tenderness and determination was, as I noticed, similar to the character of people I had encountered in Israel. And furthermore – what do we call Israelis born in this spectacular yet somewhat hostile land, who manage to turn deserts into blossoming gardens? Sabra. And what is sabra? A cactus of course! So, we found ourselves constructing a sabra in order to celebrate people who possess strength, courage and toughness, yet also have much love for and devotion to their country.
The tower is topped with a platform, where, like with the cacti flowers, individual petals of the outer cladding peel up, allowing visitors to take delight in observing the beautiful environs while sheltered from harsh sunlight or inclement weather. Just like any other sabra, the tower can endure a lot. This sabra will be the only tower of its kind, as each of our projects is strictly unique – we never repeat our designs. We paid a lot of attention to adjusting the parameters of the tower to the fairy-tale-ish setting of the Hansen House and its gardens – so that it wouldn’t try to outshine the historical building, but rather be a humble companion to the old olive trees and other plants in the garden, as well as houses in the immediate vicinity of the Hansen compound.
Of course, we also paid maximum consideration to meeting the strictest European and Israeli criterions and we sincerely hope that the Israeli public will find this entrée of “design in wood” interesting and refreshing. In HAMR we routinely work with wood, as we consider it of utmost importance to come up with designs people can appreciate at first glance. That is why wood is our material of choice, since people are fond of it, as it is so similar to them in nature. However, in the local context a wooden structure is a true rarity.
To make the project as easy to complete as possible, we manufactured all individual components in the Czech Republic, so they could fit into two large containers. Those were then shipped to Jerusalem and assembled in the Hansen garden according to the design.
Every structure possesses its own ethos and it is also very important under what circumstances and with whom the project was accomplished. This particular one brought together the most diligent and dedicated people and specialists, with whom it was a true pleasure to work.
We call the tower “Ester”. Why? We always give our towers female names, and we name them in alphabetical order. There is Anežka on the top of the Sněžka mountain, Bára close to the city Chrudim, Cecilka in Brno, Doubravka is under construction in Prague right now, so the letter coming up was E. And Ester is a very nice Jewish name we like a lot. So simple!