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The making of Jerusalem's ‘Holy Basin’

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This article analyses the little studied development of Jerusalem's ‘Holy Basin’ in its religious, intellectual and urban history. The Holy Basin is a geographical zone surrounding and including the historic Old City of Jerusalem; together, basin and walled enclosure contain the majority of sites holy to Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the city. In recent times, the concept has become central to planning policy and political interests. The Holy Basin is also seen increasingly as the crux not only of how the city is contested, but more generally of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and Jerusalem's status within the proposed two-state solution. Rather than a discussion of the current politics of the Basin, this article focuses on how imperialist and Romantic conceptions of landscape from the nineteenth century influenced the conservation and planning of Jerusalem throughout the twentieth century and into the present day. The example of Jerusalem shows how Western conservation practices and perceptions of ‘sacred space’, first introduced by the British, profoundly altered not just the urban fabric but also the very understanding of the role and integration of the historic parts of the city with modern Jerusalem.

Keywords: Jerusalem; Picturesque; colonial urbanism; conservation; imperialism; landscape; planning; sacred space

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Architecture,University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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