Harry Brand
Gilbert Herbert
 
Professor Emeritus : Technion : Israel Institude of Technology
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Sometimes there are intriguing parallels between the personality of an architect, and the characteristics of the projects he designs. The showmanship that was quintessentially Frank Lloyd Wright’s was increasingly evident in the bravura displays of his later work, just as integrity and sobriety characterize both Walter Gropius the man, and the buildings he created. ’Less is more’ in indicative both of Mies van der Rohe’s terse aphorisms and of the pristine minimalism of his architecture, while the hyperbole of Hendricus Wijdeveld’s writing mirrors the grandiose vision of his projects. These of course are facile generalizations, and if there are correlations between the individual qualities of a creative personality and the artifacts he produces, they are sometimes less direct, more complex, than meets the eye. How else can one explain the seeming contradiction between the flamboyance of Gaudi’s buildings in Barcelona, and the austerity of his lifestyle?
 
Bearing this caveat in mind, how does this concept of the man being mirrored in his work apply to Harry Brand? Until I studied the projects catalogued in this handsome album I think I knew Harry the man better than I knew his work as an architect. This personal knowledge was gleaned from a contact extensive in time, and wide-ranging in context. In the late 1950s I was teaching architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Harry was one of my students. Until today I still recall his final project, an absorption centre for immigrants to the fledgling State of Israel, capable of being converted at a later stage to a community centre. The project was a serious one, showing political and social commitment, and the architecture was rational. Acting as Harry’s examiner, I came to the conclusion that these were his personal qualities as well. In more recent years, after I came with my family to Israel in 1968, our professional paths were to cross again. At my suggestion, Harry came to the Technion as one of a select group of adjunct professors to give our students the benefit of his extensive practical experience, especially in the field of technology. Unlike some of his professional colleagues who joined us in this framework, his dedication to his task was exemplary. Harry was a member of the committee I chaired which evaluated the Architectural School at Bazalel for academic recognition. We were both members of a similar committee under David Best which monitored the school at Tel Aviv University, and I served under Harry’s chairmanship when we granted recognition to the Architectural School at the College of Judea and Samaria, in Ariel. Whether serving as a committee member or as chairman, Harry’s sense of responsibility, his fairness and the thoroughness of his reports and documentation, were most impressive. Most of all I appreciated his humanity and his empathy with those he was evaluating, whether students or staff. To complete this picture, I have some glimpses of Harry Brand as a family man, having met his charming wife, and having had the pleasure of teaching his daughter.
 
Going through the projects in this book, I am struck by the same qualities in the work as in the person. Each project is characterized by, and reflects in its physical form, a seriousness of approach, a responsible response to the needs of the client and to broader societal and environmental concerns, a rational analysis of the problem and a meticulous attention to detail. Harry Brand’s total oeuvre is remarkably consistent. Whatever the issue, whether it is a wide-ranging plan for an industrial area in the Galilee, an individual building, or a child’s toy, each evokes the same qualities of care, thought, precision, and dedication. While always technically innovative, it is also conservative and creative preserving enduring values, while showing progression and fresh thinking in its evolution. Geoffrey Pearse, the first Professor of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand, my alma Mater and Harry’s, once defined architecture as ’solving the practical problem handsomely’. This pithy and unpretentious phrase, I believe, is the most appropriate description of the work illustrated in this book.  



Yechiel Kadishai

Past emissary to S. African Betar.  Past head  of the bureau of Prime Minister Menahem Begin
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Jan Smuts airport, Johannesburg 1958. My first meeting with a young man aged 22, with a captivating smile and a sparkle in his eye – Harry Brand. For two years, almost daily, we spent many hours together. At the time he was an architectural student but managed to continue his educational work in Betar, a Zionist youth movement that calls on young Jews to fulfill their personal aspirations and national responsibilities by emigrating to Israel. Commitment, logic and humility characterized the young man.
 
I recall his interest in the social fabric of the Jewish communities in Europe, their institutions and mutual support systems. The lessons learnt, he applied in the context of his university studies in particular the neighbourhood centre at Kiriat Gat for the absorption of new immigrants, which was the subject of his final year thesis. His desire to further prepare himself for his immigration to Israel took him to England for two years where he obtained a masters degree in Town and Country Planning.
 
We began to see his name appear on the boards of building and development projects throughout the length and breadth of the country. He was committed to creating a quality environment with an infrastructure to allow for economic growth in development areas. Some of the ideas and dreams of developers such as Stef Wertheimer, the Beck family, the Kaplan family and the Garrun group were realized through his vision and talent.
 
His public activities encompassed many fields. These included the founding of the Israel Association of Planners on which he served as its first chairman, the accreditation of architectural schools on behalf of the Council for Higher Education and teaching at the architectural school of the Technion. He also served as a member of the Kiriat Ono municipal council and was a member of the building committee of the Menahem Begin Heritage Centre in Jerusalem.
 
In his work over the years he forged a link in the chain of the Jewish Renaissance and the rebuilding of the modern State of Israel.
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