AlGo-34/17

A RUSTY PICTURE OF TIME
Alfred Goldberger’s Casino in Bat Galim, Haifa.

On the shores of Haifa, in the middle of the Mediterranean, surrounded by barbed wire, stands a deserted concrete colossus – the Casino of Bat Galim. This film portrays the building, which was built in 1934 in the Bat Galim neighborhood (“daughter of the waves”), by the Jewish-Austrian architect Alfred Goldberger (1908 – 1979). After completing his studies in architecture, a short stint as an architect in Vienna, and the rejection of is doctoral thesis about the “Klubhaus” at the Vienna University of Technology, Goldberger decided to emigrate to Palestine.
His first major design project was the casino in Haifa. Already completed in 1934, it became one of the most popular meeting places for soldiers and citizens who could afford it.

Because of the British mandate, Haifa became one of the most important hubs in the Middle East. This economic boom also gave the casino a reputation, and guests came from near and far to experience the spectacle. The casino played host to many famous local and international musicians, singers, dancers and more.

With the end of the British mandate in 1948, Haifa lost its influence, and so the casino was soon used as a venue for weddings and birthdays. Since the owners lacked the money and drive to maintain the building, it was closed in 1972 and fell into disrepair. In 1982, the investor Sam Sheetrit bought the casino, with plans to extensively renovate it, expand it, and reopen it for weddings and special events. In 1985, planning began under the architect Simcha Afek-Shpak, but the building had been so worn down by time and sea air that the renovation became too expensive for the investor. In 1994, the casino was demolished and, for a short period there was a clear view from Bat Galim Avenue out to the open sea, similar to what Richard Kaufmann’s masterplan for the coast of Haifa.

But the investor had already made plans to build on the site. Since building directly next to the sea was prohibited by law, he was only able to carry out the reconstruction of the casino itself. Construction began in 1998, but construction was halted the same year, when building costs were estimated.
The market for weddings was focused on outdoor events, spelling the end of an important source of income. Since then, the concrete skeleton remains, unusable and inaccessible. In 2010, the investor Gil Dankner bought the building, with plans to transform it into a boutique hotel. The film “A Rusty Picture of Time” attempts to document both the complex history of the building, as well as the different motivations and arguments of architects, conservationists, and local residents.

A project by
Miriam Hiltner
Christoph Hanisch

watch full film (password protected)
Duration:  31:16 min