Contemporary Series C-10 Contemporary Series C-20

The Jerusalem Model

General view of the Jerusalem Model: Jaffa Road toward the Old City

General view of the Jerusalem Model: Jaffa Road toward the Old City

The model of modern Jerusalem, located in the main building of the municipality of Jerusalem, is so realistic that by just looking at it, one can immediately locate a particular street or even a specific building. Miniature life-like buses, cars and trees give this Lilliputian image of a throbbing city an added aura of reality. On this 1:500 scale model, even the height of the trees is proportionate to the trees growing in Jerusalem.

The Model was created under the direction of Richard Harvey. In 1978 Harvey was selected by Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, to design and build The Jerusalem Model, assisted by students of architecture. Harvey designed the model so that architects and urban planners may place their architectural proposals in the model for study and evaluation. When the Model was moved to Jerusalem in 1985, the Harveys (Richard and his wife, Ethel) followed and together, continued to be involved in construction and additions through 2003. In honor of his special contribution to the Jerusalem he loved, Harvey was honored with the prestigious award Yakir Yerushalayim.

"What motivated the creation of the model was the intensification of development at the time of the unification of the city, and the urgent need to preserve the many historical sites," explains Kobi Ariel, former director of the Jerusalem Center for Planning in Historic Cities, where the model is located. "We have adopted the realistic approach in our model," he adds, "because of the universal appeal of Jerusalem. In addition to the spiritual, religious and historical interest our city evokes, we feel it is also fascinating architecturally. Our model is intended primarily as a tool for architects, developers and planners, as well as for those involved in the municipal decision-making process. Architects with specific projects in mind can try out their ideas on the model. With the help of the visual feedback the model provides, what would normally take weeks or months of abstract discussion often results in quick decisions."

Harrey's Model is an Integral Part of the Jerusalem Center for Planning

The reason for this efficiency is the model's flexibility. Modular in construction, each of its current 48 units is on wheels and can be moved, taken apart, and thus continually updated. The units represent seven square kilometers (2.7 square miles) of the city's central business district, the government compound, Jerusalem's cultural mile and part of the Old City. The model has grown in all directions and now includes the rest of the Old City, the Hebrew University campus at Givat Ram, the Valley of the Cross and two major museums - the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum.

This model is an integral part of the Jerusalem Center for Planning in Historic Cities, housed in the Jerusalem municipality complex. "The aim of the Center is to understand urban problems and produce fitting solutions," says Ariel. "We focus on cities with historic significance. Historic cities the world over share similar problems of how to preserve and enhance the neighborhoods and buildings of historical-cultural interest, while adapting to the exigencies of modern living, like creating new residential areas, providing adequate transportation, etc."

Dick Harvey with model of the Jerusalem YMCA, early 1980's, Technion, Haifa

Dick Harvey with model of the Jerusalem YMCA,
early 1980's, Technion, Haifa

One of the principal aims of the Center is to become a forum for local and international planners and designers, a place to meet and exchange ideas. Visitors have included groups of experts, individual professionals dealing with municipal problems and ministers of housing. In addition, the International Mayors' Conference, meeting each year in Jerusalem, schedules one of its sessions at the Center, viewing and discussing the model and its application to the participants' own local realities.

Concurrently with its professional uses, the model also functions as an educational tool. Creative workshops are meant to stimulate school youngsters as well as adults to study urbanization and to help them devise answers to imaginary and real problems in town planning. At the same time, they become sensitized to the aesthetic aspects of such development. This is particularly important given the great variety of cultural and religious backgrounds of Jerusalem's inhabitants.

Through this model, 3,000-year-old Jerusalem can serve as a living model for modern life in historic cities.

Dick Harvey working on The Jerusalem Model, July 1987

Dick Harvey working on The Jerusalem Model, July 1987

For further information, please contact:
Jerusalem Center for Planning in Historic Cities
Municipality of Jerusalem
Municipality Complex
Kikar Safra
Jerusalem 91007

This article was revised from the original "Models of Jerusalem: Four Periods in the History of the City" by Lilli Eylon.