Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Architecture of The King David Hotel in "Exodus" [1960]

In the 1960 movie “Exodus”, a semi-fictional account of the reclaiming of the land of Israel and the formation of the modern Jewish state in 1948, based on Leon Uris's bestselling novel, the King David Hotel plays an important, and completely non-fictional, role as the headquarters of the military under the British Mandate. And what a hotel it is!  

Conceived as a palatial, Beaux Arts palazzo-style “Grand Hotel” by Swiss architect Emil Vogt, who deliberately intended to recall “the ancient Semitic style and the ambiance of the glorious period of King David”, its spacious lobbies were decorated by Gustave Hufschmid, and were completed in 1931. 

Taking center stage for a few quick scenes, they show a worldly melange of styles combining motifs from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Africa. Oversized column capitals evoke a Phoenician style; panelling in a smoking room mixes Moorish and Syrian details. Stenciled patterns simulate Islamic ceramic tile. And all of these influences are informed by the sleek and simplifying geometries of the French Art Decoratif.


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