The Seidoff Houses
Beita is located on 155 Jaffa street, neighbouring the Mahane Yehuda market, on the route of the light rail across from the ‘HaTurim’ gas station.
The center operates from within the historic Seidoff complex, where in the past many of Jerusalem’s craft makers resided in its courtyards. The 200 square feet of the Beita space was given to the department of visual arts in the Jerusalem municipality in 2012, and was officially opened for activity in 2014. The centrality and accessibility of the building enable to gather under one roof local and international artists, neighbours, tourists, researchers, educators, merchants, representatives of Jerusalem institutions, and members of the municipal authorities, creating a multicultural discourse that promotes collaborative undertakings in the city.
The Seidoff Building and its surroundings in an archive photograph, 1935
The Seidoff building was constructed in 1911 by Yitzhak Seidoff- a wealthy immigrant from Bukhara, for the use of the Bukhari community in Jerusalem. The structure, which was originally named “The large Wall House” is located between the Beit Yaakov neighbourhood and the old Shaarei Tzedek hospital, and combines three distinct building styles: a classic courtyard neighbourhood, the Bukhari building style, prevalent in Israel in the early part of the century, and industrial construction.
The building complex is unique in the centrality of its location in the heart of the city, its architecture, and in unveiling the story of the city and the considerable social, economic, and urban changes which took place. Moments in the history of the building begin in the early 20th century with a vibrant community life – shops and crafts workshops alongside a crowded residence permeated with the tumult of children, communal bathrooms, two water wells, and a synagogue; continuing to the 80’s, a time when the building was on the brink of disintegration, used by jerusalem based artists and craftsmen as a residence, makeshift workspace, and space for culture events; until the first decade of the 2000’s, when the Seidoff building underwent an extensive process of preservation and renovation as part of a prestigious residence and commercial complex real-estate initiative by the Ashdar company. consequently, a 23 story building was erected in the interior courtyard of the Seidoff complex.
Beita aspires to relate the story of the Seidoff building as a way to discover the city and all the urban, social and value changes it underwent, as well as to rethink the shaping of its future. In the absence of official documentation on the building, the search for details has become part of a creative research process, including collecting information and stories from residents who know of its past. The historic nature of the Seidoff building as a center for craftsmen is reborn in the creation of the Beita workshop, which emphasises the tradition of arts & crafts that was prevalent in the building.