City of Bat Yam – A Decade-long Curatorial Urbanism is a decade long collaboration between the Bat Yam Municipality, local residence and Moria Architects. The collaboration became a unique model of an urban design process that manages urban expressions of people, space and time – an urban curation where space manages time, and time manages space. Bat Yam, a medium-size city of 160,000 residents, low socioeconomic class and high density has been divested, overlooked and mismanaged for many years. It’s assets and unique qualities forgotten. The city abounds with contradictions, varied ethnic groups and a strong sense of local identity. A stunning stretch of seafront serves as the city’s western border, while a busy highway borders the city to the east.
In 2007 a new city leadership searched for a direction or project that would lift the city of its anonymity. The ‘Bat Yam International Biennale of Landscape Urbanism – Hosting’ (2008) was formed as an action of curating public space. Its goal was to shed light and comment on existing but ignored urban assets and to create an insight into the chasm between the way a city is planned, lived in and experienced. Architects, landscape architects, city planners, and artists from around the world participated in creating “actions” across the city. In ‘Hosting’ the city was transformed into an urban salon that examined private and public and the city’s ability to host and be hosted. A second Biennale ‘Timing’ (2010), examined the ability to manage the space of time and the time of space – actions signifying a-temporal everyday urban experiences.
The two Biennale conceptualized a new possibility to intervene in public space through a bottom-up ‘Urban Action’ to reconceive the relationship between city officials and residents, professionals and laymen. Consequently, in 2010, Studio Bat Yam was established in one of Bat Yam’s run-down neighborhoods – a meeting-action place to negotiate fast spatial responses that identify and realize the needs of the community, the physical-material opportunities and appropriate municipal actions. The Studio activities or ‘Urban Actions’ were characterized by a broad range of actions. One type of action, ‘Urban Punctuation,’ is aimed to create a responsive design agency for abandoned urban spaces, a means for the city to continuously get to know and reinvent itself.
‘Punctuations’ were abandoned lots and building retrofits were infused with content as new public open space. For instance, in Side Effect, an abandoned and derelict building was retrofitted into a neighborhood event space. In Butterfly Garden, a parking lot was converted into a butterfly garden. What was once a liability and eyesore was transformed into places of rest, leisure, and activity. Throughout the city new trees were planted, existing trees were tended to for shade and microclimate; chairs and benches were scattered in places that were identifies as favorite meeting place; empty lots were designed as urban gardens.
Following a critical mass of ‘punctuations’ had been administered and a invigorated awareness in the city’s potential has been created, the municipality was ready to operate on a larger scale, both at the statutory and physical level, such as the waterfront, the abandoned industrial quarter and a landfill in the city.
Three large-scale projects ensued. The first project was a response to an attempt to clear out a landfill outside the city’s borders. Cleanup, landform and planting transformed the site into the Beach Grove Park as pathways, solar-powered lighting and shaded seating areas were added. Elementary school students took part in seasonal planting. What was initially zoned as a future hotel area was rezoned and remained a popular community park.
The second project, The Cliff promenade, responded to the collapsing of part of the cliff and the disconnect of the beach from the city. Two promenades were designed – a sea level promenade and a city promenade atop the cliffs. It became a catalyst to reinvent the relationship between the city and the waterfront and to advance the daily use of the beach as an urban asset. Existing concrete planters were recycled and used as eroded cliff retainers and support infrastructure, creating new terraces to view the sea.
The third project, the Bat Yam Pier, transformed an existing, weathered and dangerous concrete drain into a multi-use place – a popular fishing spot and a terrace overlooking the sea. It also became a beach-accessible ramp where until then had no beach access.
‘City of Bat Yam – A Decade-long Curatorial Urbanism’ is continually unfolding. It is taught as practicum in other cities across Israel – a working model to design urban public landscapes. It is a practice that challenges the role of the landscape architect as a savior from hell or a creator of paradise, replacing it with the idea of the landscape architect as a curator, catalyst, and facilitator.
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect, Biennale Curator
‘Bat Yam International Biennale of Landscape Urbanism’, ‘Hosting’ (2008),
Co-curators: Sigal Barnir, Tamar Darel-Fossfeld, Yael Moria
‘Bat Yam International Biennale of Landscape Urbanism’, ‘Timing’ (2010),
Co-curators: Sigal Barnir, Yael Moria
Project location: City of Bat Yam, Israel
Design year: 2007-2017
Year Built: 2008-2018