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Honey Bee Hive House *

Honey Bee Hive House Photo: מיכאל יעקובסון

The Honey Bee Hive House is one of the cool, hidden, and unusual things to do in East Jerusalem, Israel. After the Six Day War, the Housing Ministry sponsored the construction of neighborhoods in the newly conquered territories. The Ramot Polin complex has been named one of the “World’s Strangest Buildings”.

Building in Ramot Polin Neighborhood, Jerusalem, Israel Photo: Nehemia G

The Expansion of Jerusalem

The expansion of Jerusalem in the years following the 1967 Six Day War brought with it a period of conflict in architectural aesthetics; between a historicised image of an ideal Israeli past and the experimental geometrics of the European avant-garde.

Ramot was one such neighborhood, which modernist architect Zvi Hecker had a hand in designing in the 1970s. Hecker’s Ramot Polin neighborhood is home to the apartment complex that has been labeled one of the strangest buildings in the world – and at the very least, it is definitely provocative. Hecker, inspired by geometrical shapes, created the apartment complex that is casually referred to as a ‘Beehive,’ or ‘Beehive apartments,’ and it is viewed as a controversial and overstated piece of architecture.

Photo: מיכאל יעקובסון

Ramot Polin

Ramot Polin  (רמות פולין‎, literally Poland Heights) is part of the larger neighborhood of Ramot, northwest East Jerusalem. It was constructed by the Kollel Polin (Poland) in stages beginning in 1972, under the auspices of the Office for Building and Habitation, and is populated, as intended, mostly by Haredi Jewish families. The neighborhood contains 720 housing units of varying sizes.  It is an unusual prefabricated apartment complex. The apartments were expanded later, incorporating more cubic rather than pentagonal components. The 720 unit complex built in Jerusalem was an architectural experiment that was supposed to encourage middle-income Orthodox families to settle. Instead, the crumbling Ramot Polin complex now provides sanctuary to low income religious groups.

The interior spaces are monumentally impractical, with large areas of unusable walls, horribly cramped balconies, windows that seem especially designed for children to fall out of, issues everywhere with rain screening, drainage, and lack of natural light, all amounting to the development from the beginning not attracting the middle income, secular families it was originally intended for.

A geometric jumble of homes in Jerusalem. 

Resembling the beehive which inspired its more common nickname, the Ramot Polin housing project in East Jerusalem was designed by Polish born architect Zvi Hecker.

At the time, Hecker’s 3-D system of dodecahedrons (outer walls comprised of 12 pentagonal faces) seemed to meet all of the requirements: a fast-build modular design cast in concrete and covered in the ubiquitous Jerusalem stone.

Construction lasted more than a decade starting in 1972, the result is rows of geometrically inspired structures making up 720 housing suits, tumbled one atop another. Hecker is known for his unorthodox architectural style, often incorporating asymmetrical forms, unusual geometric shapes and swirls. 

The extraordinary architecture has a surprisingly ordinary origin: it was a government ordered housing unit for Orthodox Jewish families living in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem, in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War.

Since its construction the unusual complex has been loved and hated by professional architects and local residents alike, where no one seems to be able to decide if it is a work of genius or experimental architecture gone awry.

The Honey Be Hive House has it’s hidden flaws:

Reason 1: It doesn’t match it’s surroundings, when 1st created it was significantly different from the rest of the new building in the city, from the materials it was created from to the outer structure of the building, it just looks out of place.

Reason 2: It’s not being innovative it’s just being cheap, the fancy outer honeycomb structure is just the fancy gift wrapping that was placed there to hide the fact that the interior is just a small rectangular box.

Initially the creators thought it was a great idea because it was cost effective to build and the public considered it popular  because of its low prices, but the residents claimed that the quality of building was inferior and needed ‘additions’. This Honey Comb Hive House may look pretty, but does not take into consideration the needs of the people and the area where it’s located.

One of the second stage buildings Photo: מיכאל יעקובסון

Zvi Hecker

Zvi Hecker was born as Tadeusz Hecker in Kraków, Poland. He grew up in Poland and Samarkand. He began his education in architecture at the Cracow University of Technology. He immigrated to Israel in 1950.

Zvi Hecker, Ostrava, 2013 Photo: Jarnemec

Zvi Hecker architecture has continued to emphasize geometry and modularity, but with increasing asymmetry. One of the examples of advanced geometry in Hecker’s work is the Spiral Apartment House in Ramat Gan.

The Spiral Apartment House in Ramat Gan Photo: Aviad2001 

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