Tel-Aviv based designers, Ifat Finkelman_Ofer Bilik Architects, have submitted their competition winning entry, a Habitat for Urban Wildlife, which repurposes existing Israeli water towers. Additional images and a description of both the project and the competition after the break.
The competition ‘Water Tower- new perspectives’ was held between Aug-Dec 2010 and organized by the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Berkeley University and the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS). Hundreds of water towers were built in different periods and styles across Israel, many of which now stand dry, noticeably disintegrating. What used to be a sign of vitality now stands as a shameful memory of useless concrete, carrying antennas or advertisement posters. Very few municipalities have realized the historic and cultural value of the water tower and renewed the structure. Most of the towers, however, haven’t been gracefully treated, if at all. The competition called for contemporary interpretations for the Israeli water tower in general, and for a specific design suggestion referring to an existing tower. The design should take into consideration the communal role; resume its position as public space in a form adequate to the contemporary lifestyle and specific context. Moreover, it should respect and value matters of conservation.
We have identified the potential within the urban water towers – functioning and abandoned – with their height, unique structure and strategic locations, to act as an impetus for encouraging an urban wildlife. Their obvious characteristics as urban landmarks and meeting places suggest expanding their designated function as natural systems. Our design suggests defining and addressing this strategy to urban water towers in general, using the Ramat HaNasy Tower in Bat Yam as a pilot to examine the physical and programmatic actions, methods and procedures necessary.
1. Saving biodiversity
2. Reintroducing species that previously existed in the region
3. Water sources to attract migrating birds in the autumn
4. Education, information: signage, explanations, viewing platforms, seasonal and daily activities, special events and guided tours, internet platforms for continuous updates
5. Strengthening the sites presence and within the local community and specifically within the nearby school
Living buildings function as natural systems and keep a balanced equilibrium between the structure and its natural surroundings. According to its geographical location and the resources it “uses”, the living structure needs to supply hidden areas, nesting spaces and food resources in order to strengthen the natural biological, ecological and visual systems. By locating and defining a variety of existing or potential animal and plants species in the area, we are able to create a series of openings and internal voids – each specifically sized and positioned to allow for a rich and varied range of animals – from fruit bats and song birds to small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
* “The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.” (from: the UN web site)
The Water Tower: Viewing platforms
The preservation of the water tower demands a minimal intervention that respects the original architecture of the tower without compromising the new program and activities within it. We have created a system of staircases and viewing galleries that occupy the internal space and allow for bird (and wildlife) watching without disturbing the various species. The galleries are specifically arranged to match the geographical and biological variety. They complete a full panorama – 360 degrees of urban wildlife.
The Water Tank: An interface between citizens and the environment
In order to create a real dialogue between residents and the natural system, a high quality interface including hidden viewing platforms, research activities, publicity, nature & art galleries and other educational functions, has to be established. The Water Tank is an integrative structure. It’s double skin and winter rain pool create natural living systems inhabited by a variety of species surrounding the structure’s inner space which is designated for communal activities.