P. 59

agreements of the existing offices), "and if this is impossible, then we should take into account not eight months but rather a year and eight months," and even this did not seem too long a time for them11. On Chol HaMoed (intermediate days) of Passover 5689 (April 18, 1929) the cornerstone of the KKL-JNF building was set and construction of the first floor ended in 1930. Construction was made possible after a 60% mortgage was acquired from the "Phoenix" Company in Vienna.
Ratner's winning proposal had sparked criticism from the Jerusalemite architect Benjamin Chaikin. He contacted Dr. Chaim Weizmann, President of the Zionist Organization, and claimed that settling for a two-story construction would belittle the building in relation to the monumental structures built around it: The Ratisbonne Monastery, the Terra Sancta College, the "Palace" Hotel (built as an Arab initiative in the years 1928-1929), the YMCA building – whose tall tower was visible from a distance. It turns out that Colonel Frederick Kisch, the Chairman of the Zionist Executive, was also unhappy with the humble appearance of the building. In a letter dated April 8, 1930 to the Technical Department of the Zionist Executive, headed by Yaakov Reiser, Ratner responded to Colonel Kisch's suggestion to consider "if it is appropriate to revive the 'monotonous' appearance of the façade by building the entire middle wing or the column vestibule with another type of stone." Ratner claimed that:
It is difficult to debate the impression made by the façade to begin with, since the existing KKL-JNF building is merely a wing lacking in importance in and of itself and its façade is completely smooth. Conversely, the Jewish Agency Wing shall have various protrusions that will liven up the façade with lights and shadows.
The correspondence between Ratner and the Technical Department reveals that the architect carefully maintained the level of performance. For instance, he wrote in his guidelines to the cement work specification that the cement mixture shall be made in a cement mixer and not manually. Regarding the masonry of the external walls, Ratner instructed that the masonry would be similar to the Franklin Building in Kiryat Moshe and that the small louvers for ventilation would be similar to those in the Bible Society Building that was built by Clifford Holliday near City Hall.
Ratner was required to build a wall near the main entrance that was made of concrete, rather than stone, as he planned. He agreed to this on the explicit condition that the wall and plaster would be "of a high quality", but the builders failed to keep this promise. He wrote to the Administration of the Keren Hayesod, with a copy to Technical Department, that:
11 Minutes of a meeting regarding the central National Institutions in Jerusalem, October 3, 1928. CZA

   57   58   59   60   61