Israel Electric Corporation buildings in Israel
In collaboration with Architects Einav Schory & Shira Ben Ezra
Historical Background of the IEC
The construction of the Electric Company complex on Kremnitzky Street was carried out by the Civil Planning Department and the Executive Division of the Israel Electric Company (IEC). The IEC was founded as the Palestine Electric Company on March 29th, 1923 by the Jewish engineer and revolutionary Pinchas Rotenberg (1879-1942). The IEC started with two concessions that Pinchas Rotenberg received from the British Mandate government in 1921, after conducting a survey on the
possibilities of exploiting the country's water sources and formulating a proposal for the construction of 31 hydroelectric power stations based on this survey. The first concession referred to the Jaffa sub-district and on its basis the "Jaffa Electric Company" was founded. Rotenberg undertook to build a hydroelectric power station on the Yarkon, but eventually built a calorie station between Jaffa and Tel Aviv. In 1923, the first power station was opened, supplying electricity to the cities of Jaffa and Tel Aviv. In 1925, the IEC built two more diesel-powered power plants – one in Haifa and the other in Tiberias.
The story of the 'Palestine Electric Company' is interwoven with the story of the Hebrew settlement in modern times and with the vision of the establishment of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel in Hebrew work. However, the concession from the Mandate government that Rotenberg won as a private company obligated the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants and the creation of an "electrified" space for Jews and Arabs alike. In 1932, following the construction of the power stations in Jaffa, Haifa and Tiberias, the "Nahariya" hydroelectric power station was also inaugurated, which was built east of the Jordan River and became the first new power station in the Middle East. During the War of Independence, the Nahariya power plant came under the control of the Kingdom of Jordan and ceased its operations. Its place in the IEC's production line was taken by the new production units set up at the sites of the power stations in Tel Aviv - on the site of the Redding power station which was called Redding B and has two units: The first unit in Redding B started operating in May 1935, with this second one in March 1945. The introduction of the new units led to an easing of the electricity crisis which enabled the company to plan long-term and build new power sites.
With the end of the War of Independence and the opening of the country's gates to large waves of immigration, the IEC faced major development challenges, but investors' money stopped coming and the company lacked the sums of money required for it. It is worth noting that despite the financing difficulties in the years 1945-1949, the IEC continued to develop and expand existing power plants to meet the growing needs of the economy. During this period, two units were established in Haifa, one at the end of 1949 and the other in 1951.
In 1954, the Israeli government decided to purchase 59% of the company's shares and turn it into a government company. On that year, the Israeli government also purchased the electricity franchise from the Jerusalem Electric and Public Service Company (a company that was also subject to budgetary difficulties) and made it to its daughter company as the Electricity Company of the Land of Israel. The process of modernization that the State of Israel underwent did not stop, and in the early 1960s, two new power plants with identical data were established with reparations money from Germany: Haifa B. and Ashdod B. With the growth of the IEC, space was required for the company’s technical operations center. The implementation of this center was the responsibility of the Civil Planning Department and the Execution Division of the IEC, which guided the planning and execution of the project. Along the way, the department was renamed to the "Engineering Projects Division." Today, the division is responsible for the management, planning and construction of all the power stations and substations established in the State of Israel. The division's engineering performance and managerial capabilities enable it to integrate and carry out projects in the production and hatred system abroad and in Israel. The division has about 2,000 employees and includes the Engineering Planning Division, the Project Execution Division and the Project Management Headquarters.
The Contribution of Pinchas Rotenberg to the Electricity Plan and the Development of Modern Architecture in the Land of Israel
The contribution of Pinchas Rotenberg (1879-1942), who was called "the old man from Nahariya", is reflected not only in the establishment of the electricity plant in the Land of Israel, but also in the development of modern architecture in Israel and the visual imprint it left on the landscape. The power plants he established are an impressive and astonishing architectural enterprise. The connection between technology and aesthetics has yielded structures whose architecture arouses much public interest to this day. "Like cathedrals that dominated the urban
landscape in medieval Europe, so do power stations that dominate their surroundings – towering over the coastal plain or visible from Haifa Bay and the open sea," wrote researchers in the history of architecture Prof. Gilbert Herbert, Dr. Ita Heinza-Greenberg and architect Sylvain Sosnowski in their book "Striving for Excellence in Architecture: Buildings and Projects of the Electricity Plant in the Land of Israel 1942-1921". The steps of the IEC in Eretz Israel can be divided into two stages:
· The first stage – in the construction of the first power stations in the 1920s and 1930s.
· The second phase – the second generation of power stations (Haifa A and Redding Tel Aviv.
To fulfill the task of building the power plants and auxiliary structures of the IEC, Rotenberg recruited an impressive line of architects, including Alexander Brawald, Joseph Berlin, Samuel Rozov, Benjamin Ural, Edward Rosenhack, Clifford Holiday, Pierce Howard and Richard Kaufman, and Erich Mendelssohn, who was perhaps one of the greatest architects in the country in the 1930s and was highly valued by Rothenberg. Mendelssohn's imprint is evident in almost all of the buildings that Rothenberg erected, although he did not actually design any of them in their entirety.
For decades, the architecture of power plants has aroused great interest in the world. Rothenberg's stations do not fall short in architectural quality from much larger stations established in those years in the United States and Europe, and sometimes even surpass them in their bold modern design. Rotenberg recognized the importance of architecture and used its power to create images. Since the basic design of the power plants was largely due to technical considerations, such as the location of the boilers and turbines, Rotenberg's task was to determine the character of the building as perceived from the outside, and to give it an authoritative and impressive form. However, despite Rotenberg's appreciation for architects, he sometimes acted in bad faith, such as ordering plans from them and rejecting them, employing several of them at the same time, created an atmosphere of uncertainty and sometimes stopped contacting them without prior notice. The final design of the power plants was eventually done in the IEC's technical office, headed by engineer Samuel David Sorsky, a skilled professional who was a right-hand man and did Rotenberg's work. Rotenberg himself intervened not only in the technical level of the design process, but also in aesthetic issues.
At the time, the foundations for the intoxication of power of the electricity company were undoubtedly laid by Rotenberg himself. The development of the IEC for the Land of Israel in general and its construction plans in particular were defined, determined and controlled by only one person – Rotenberg. He is described as a man who makes low and threatening noises and filters his words through clenched teeth. However, he was a man of vision, action and unprecedented initiative in the area. He was a messenger of progress and devoted the best of his energy and energies to his people and homeland.