Our office was founded almost 50 years ago by Shlomo Aronson: today Barbara and Ittai Aronson continue and expand the professional legacy of a practice which creates responsible designs of all types, scales and at all stages of planning. We look towards the uniqueness of our historical, cultural, and natural surroundings to provide inspiration, while continually evolving to integrate new understandings. Over the course of our offices history, we have had a broad-scale influence on creating projects with a unique local sense of place across the country. Our office continues this tradition with a multi-disciplinary team of 25 landscape architects, architects and urban designers who are perpetually testing past experiences and our distinctive design language against new professional insights and innovations. Ecological, cultural and social responsiveness has been at the heart of the practice from the beginning. Our very broad lateral and integrative approach to designing sustainable interventions in the environment, from large engineering to infrastructure projects, archaeological and regional parks, neighborhoods and public buildings, afforestation projects, promenades and urban plazas, strategic and statutory plans, has gained our practice local and international recognition. As we look forward, we are taking advantage of our accumulated knowledge to approach the extremely varied projects we are asked to design and to reach our goal of creating site-specific, resilient, and lasting projects.
The ideas of Sustainable Narratives and Emotional Evocation call upon the re-connection of the public to historical and local landscapes. Through conceptual layering and sensitivity to cultural and historical resources, existing ecological habitats, and a complex urban environment, designs can tap into site-specific cultural narratives, inviting all sections of the population to enjoy and become part of their local environment. Thus, long term sustainability of landscapes and the preservation of natural and cultural resources will be strengthened through establishing an emotional bond of the public, its present and future stewards, to the place.
Resource Creation describes our aspiration to design open space infrastructures which anticipate, and not just react, to the needs of future urban populations for quality open spaces. In general, few projects sow the seed for future uses within the given program at their outsets; many set out to remedy a specific disturbance only. The open-endedness of these interventions holds possibly the greatest promise and reward in the future.
Programmatic Phasing is based on the idea of on-going activation of open spaces through the exchange of temporary and permanent uses until final completion of the entire project. It generates a dialog between the locale and the public from the project’s inception and helps control potentially invasive or destructive interventions on the land.
Structured Flexibility in the design process refers to built-in flexibility within master plans, avoiding specific formal or programmatic requirements while outlining a clear conceptual vision for the open space. This flexibility takes into account different aspects like economic feasibility, project phasing, public acceptance, and bureaucratic barriers: room is left to learn from past mistakes and react to new trends within a general structure that allows for aesthetic and conceptual cohesiveness.
While sea levels in the northern portion of the Dead Sea are dropping drastically each year, this project was initiated in response to the problem of rising sea levels in the southern portion caused by industrial mining activity. The design creates an integrating, continuous public space connecting the main axis of hotels with the raised and renovated beach and new promenade along the seashore. The project is organized as a series of zones moving outwards from the sea: beach, promenade, beach park, parking, and finally the main axis of hotels and transport, all of which are framed by the striking desert cliffs.
The beach zone penetrates into the sea itself with accessible decks to bring bathers into the water. A series of large shade structures protect visitors from the average summer temperatures of 40 degree, providing large islands of continuous shade designed for families and to encourage groups and interactions between the diverse visitors. The white of the shade sails offsets the warm colors of the desert landscape and the brilliant blues of the sea, and the silhouette of the structures creates a dialogue with the Jordanian Hills at the horizon.
The beach park is planted with a grid of date palms which evoke the typical agricultural groves of the Dead Sea area and which provide a strong vertical architecture and sense of scale. The park includes lawn for picnicking families, as well as desert plantings, and is watered with treated wastewater from the hotels.
The park is located on an historical flood plain with large seasonal winter ponds. The existing matrix of the drainage and flooding systems, combined with the idea of using the imagery of a tree with extending branches as the organizational structure, determined the formal language for the park: the general layout and the design of its built elements interprets this basic idea of ‘natural flow’. The first stage included re-habilitated drainage channels, a lake, and an amphitheater, a feature playground area and a coffee shop/public facilities building. Separate path systems for runners and cyclists weave through the park and connect to the existing surroundings. The following stages were designed around the unique winter ponds with their rich wildlife of migrating birds, including viewing decks and bird watching shelters while continuing the basic structure of pedestrian, bicycle and running paths, as well as play areas.
Our proposal envisions the rise of a dense new urban district that will be able to adapt to present and future trends and findings, catering not only to the needs of its projected inhabitants but to provide a wide palette of public uses and open spaces for the broader population. The central idea of our plan calls for a constant exploration and celebration of the area through the mix of multiple temporary uses and events alongside the construction of permanent projects.
Following the submission of the strategy, the team was requested to advance the plan through to Master plan stage. The municipality decided to involve the internationally renowned office of usefulprojects to help create an exemplary test case for sustainable design of a new city quarter.
To this end we developed a major pathway that includes stone-paved walks and plazas linking the new museum complex with older buildings, monuments and previously developed areas. Minor paths connect to more intimate spaces and give an alternate route through the garden. In accordance with the desire for a minimalist treatment of the physical surroundings of the memorials and museum, we developed an overall language of light-washed stone-paved plazas contrasting with dense plantings of trees and bushes. Based on the same palette of materials, the individual character of each plaza was defined by different interpretations of the same design elements, by using different stone sizes and finishes, and by the use of differing tree species for each space.
At a large scale the landscaping of the museum grounds blends into its natural surroundings through the use of local forest vegetation and indigenous bushes and groundcovers.