Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City (Farrar, Straus and Giroux),
Sep. 6, 2016
Ostensibly, Till We Have Built Jerusalem is about the plans drawn and buildings commissioned in Jerusalem during the British Mandate (1922-1948), focusing on a trio of architects: German-Jewish refugee modernist Erich Mendelsohn; British expatriate romantic Austen St. Barbe Harrison; and the mysterious Greco-Arab Spyro Houris. Israeli American author Adina Hoffman searches for the traces they left on Jerusalem’s skyline and seeks out their stories, but continually stumbles onto the gap between their dreams of a multicultural city reflecting all of its history with today’s harsh political and cultural reality.
She calls out some of Jerusalem’s residents for “a deep-seated cultural indifference to physical beauty” and a “defiantly ugly” contemporary architecture combining American big-box banality with pseudo-biblical grandiosity as well as the racism she sees among many fellow Jews. Till We Have Built Jerusalem is a beautifully written, painstakingly remembered and emotionally passionate account of a city through some of the men who built it.