8. März 2019
In recent years the city of Haifa is undergoing a process of accelerated urban renewal. Opposite forces operate in an area that has been neglected and desolate for years, and seeking to instill in it seemingly contradictory values: Western influences vis-à-vis Oriental ones, local vis-à-vis foreign, Jewish vis-à-vis Arab, residential vis-à-vis commercial, innovation vis-à-vis traditionalism, and daily life vis-à-vis nightlife
In the heart of this developing region, the Fattoush Bar & Gallery – a huge 650 square meter space dedicated entirely to culinary arts, arts and crafts – has recently been opened and is wisely using recycled design, furniture and décor that have been carefully collected from flea markets around the world. Thus the project puts itself at the forefront of the re-use trend, which now sets the tone for international architecture.
„When we started working on the project, we quickly realized that the real story here is the struggle itself, and the constant tension between the new and old elements that seek to determine the face of Haifa,“ says Kfir Galatia-Azulay, an artist, architect and multidisciplinary designer and owner of the Tel Aviv office K.O.T Architects, who led the process along with entrepreneur Wadie Shahbarat.
„From here,“ he said, „Our bold choice was made – not to choose. We decided to open a venue that will operate both day and night, and change its character in accordance with the hours of the day and the changing population, offering a varied menu of food and alcohol that will change around the clock. A place offering an open stage to creators from different backgrounds and different fields of art to make their voices heard.
„And above all, to ensure this variety of uses and identities, we chose a design approach based on existing treasures – unique items that were collected in flea markets all over the world and brought to Haifa to be given a new life.“ This perception characterizes the entire business and artistic vision of Shahbarat, a well-known figure in Haifa and the owner of Fattoush restaurant in the German Colony of the city.
„Together we embarked on a world-wide journey, to discover art deco iron railings, ancient wooden chests and doors that were dismantled from commercial facades. We treated the items as raw materials, although most of them were in good state and already finished, and we allowed ourselves to play with them at different levels: painting, clothing, filing, sawing, cutting and re- assembling, while keeping in mind the needs of the space and the project.
„In this way, we achieved two additional goals: the first is to align with global environmental and ecological trends, which sanctify the renewed use of the existing, while respecting tradition and reducing the impact on the world we live in. The second is to provide an innovative interpretation of Haifa’s being a port city that absorbs foreign influences, and assimilates them without apologizing and without giving up its own unique qualities“.
In order to deepen the eclectic effect and to connect the „words“ represented by the various items into a coherent design language, Galatia-Azulay decided to use different finishing materials, different shapes and many colors that are influenced by different, relevant periods, thus creating an eclectic and colorful textural wealth that assaults the senses. His ambition was to create a spectacular display of head-on collisions, which only together create a single rhythm. Thus, from raw, unrefined encounters between various materials and elements, a dynamic and changing space with a unique identity is born.
The relationship between the static building, which was established during the British Mandate and served in the past as a warehouse for goods and weapons, and the dynamic and versatile uses, is also joined by the unique location of the project – only a few meters from an active railway line. The hustle and bustle, the lights and the visual encounter between the guests of Fattoush and the train passengers create a rare and unusual connection in the Israeli urban experience. Instead of treating the railway track only as an element that surrounds the project and disconnects it from its environment, it also serves as a source of life and energy, creating brief encounters with uninvited guests who enjoy a glimpse of the celebration inside, as well as serving as a living backdrop.
Although the project has been referred to as a whole, it is possible to discern several focal points of activity that encourage a glimpse and a meeting:
The display window. In order to break the traditional reception dictated by the outer enclosure of the space and to open a virtual window to the world that exists within it, an element of a display window was constructed, containing the permanent logo of the place, alongside changing posters of exhibitions and events. The design drama continues inside, with an Art Deco entrance lobby.
The space of the restaurant. A variety of seating options (a spacious bar, tables, armchairs) and lighting fixtures (street lamps, ship lights, chandeliers, church lamps) emphasize the eclectic nature of the project. The interior walls were covered with brickwork and the inner floor was covered with bare concrete casting, in order to reflect the tension between the old and the new, and between the loud and the quiet. In addition, works of graffiti and Arabic texts discussing love with its various shades adorn one of the central walls in space.
The art gallery. The gallery is a kind of space within a space that is accessed from the main hall, through a double-wing wooden door with art deco-style glass that was dismantled from the front of a shop in Brussels. After the dramatic entrance, a clean, minimalist and completely different space is revealed – aimed at paying the utmost respect for the works exhibited there. The gallery aims to promote Arab, local and international culture, and plans to display works of artists from Iran, Iraq and Egypt, as well as from other places.
The staircase. To the second floor you ascend through an old-new staircase. Its spine is made of new steel painted black oil, but the steps are actually old loading platforms of goods, which have been processed, assembled and repainted. The picture is complemented by geometrical-looking iron railings from the Art Deco era, dismantled from an old hotel in Brussels, and fitted to the construction.
The lounge. At the end of the climb of the stairs you pass through a small bridge hanging from the ceiling and leading to the lounge, which was designed as a more nonchalant seating and hosting area, corresponding to European traditions. The seating sets are arranged as a gesture to a homely living room, and the complementary furniture – chests, display cases, carpets and collectibles – was collected in flea markets in Israel and around the world. The walls of the lounge remain exposed, and painted deep turquoise. The unique ambiance is completed by dim lighting, which creates a cozier feel. Tiffany style vitrage lamp shades and lighting fixtures and were chosen carefully and hung freely from the black ceiling.
The piazza. The space for the bathrooms in the project is separated from the dining and hosting area by an unusual intermediate space, designed as a small piazza. The inner square is paved with white tiles, cut in their corners and between them a black rhombus tile, creating a feeling of a carpet. In the center of the carpet is an old stainless steel school drinking fountain, which allows people to wash their hands side by side, thus somewhat undermining the dichotomous separation between men and women in spaces of public bathrooms. The piazza is surrounded by walls with a deep turquoise finish that have been treated with paint and acids to create an old look that has been exposed over the years, and oriental lighting fixtures dangle from the ceiling. The spaces of the bathrooms are entered by two old wooden doors decorated with vitrage work. The interior space remains exposed as if it is in a working process: the walls of the blocks were covered with black ceramics up to 1.3 meters from the floor, and above them the block walls remain exposed. Stainless steel toilet seats complement the industrial and edgy look.
The courtyard. From the main spaces of the restaurant and the gallery within it you can go out to the courtyard bordering the railway fence, as the Haifa harbor cranes frame the landscape. The yard, which also serves as an active passage for vehicles of the neighborhood’s residents, is divided into two sides, separated by a gesture – both decorative and practical – for a pedestrian crossing for all intents and purposes. Tables and benches set alongside jugs and ornaments create a sense of a village and expand the geographical interpretation of the place beyond the city’s municipal boundaries. During the summer evenings, the yard hosts music and food events, whose voices and smells merge with the surroundings.
Images: Moshi Gitelis
Fattoush Bar & Gallery, Ha-Namal St 6, Haifa, Israel