Save the Mann Auditorium

The building is included in Tel Aviv's preservation program and has been singled out by UNESCO as one of 60 of the most prominent buildings in Tel Aviv's "White City" area.

The fight to save Mann Auditorium is reaching the moment of truth. Tomorrow the Tel Aviv Planning and Building Council's appeals subcommittee is to decide on the appeal against the changes to the building being advanced by its owners, the municipality itself and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. If the appeal is rejected and the plan goes through, we can expect the end of the auditorium as we know it, the subject of esteem and recognition as one Israel's most important architectural creations and one of the best concert halls in the world.

The building, designed by leading Israeli architects Dov Carmi and Zeev Rechter, is included in the city's preservation program and has been singled out by UNESCO as one of 60 of the most prominent buildings in Tel Aviv's "White City" area. Since its inauguration in 1957 the concert hall - considered one of the 50th or so best in the world - has hosted the world's finest orchestras as well as performances of every kind.

Unfortunately the building owners, entrusted with preserving the auditorium, have not shown proper deference to the gem that has fallen into their hands. Their dismissive attitude is manifest in their decades-long neglect of the building, and particular in their renovation proposal, which is liable to compromise the auditorium's character and prestige. There is no doubt the concert hall urgently needs a comprehensive renovation, but this must be done while preserving its unique qualities. The municipality's preservation regulations for private property owners should certainly apply to the city as well.

The potential damage to the building stems from the IPO's desire to improve acoustic quality in the hall. A number of experts have cast doubt on the necessity of such an improvement or the ability to predict its success. Even if it does succeed, only a small portion of concertgoers are likely to notice a difference.

While chances for a perceptible improvement in sound are slim, it is virtually certain that such a renovation will cause harm to the auditorium complex, and at a considerable price which could have been channeled to more urgent music-related needs. In this day and age, when audio systems produce near-perfect sound, it stands to reason that the architectural experience enjoyed at a concert hall is part of the overall musical experience. The appeals committee must reject the proposed changes, and authorities involved in the matter must prepare a new renovation plan based on stricter rules of preservation, enabling the unique musical experience of the Mann Auditorium to be handed down to the next generation.