Gan Sacher Gets High-Tech

Gan Sacher Future Vision
The future of Gan Sacher? (Yaniv Pardo Architects)

Sprawling over 40 acres, Gan Sacher is Jerusalem’s largest public park. Designed by Yahalom-Zur Architects and inaugurated in 1963, the park hosts thousands of daily visitors and many large events, including the recent Geek Picnic and the popular White Night Festival.

With an eye towards the needs of residents and tourists alike, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat announced a comprehensive update to the fundamental infrastructure of the park in addition to services necessary for 21st century living. These changes will modernize the park, make it safer and keep it greener. Included in the plan are a smart lighting system, a new irrigation system, photovoltaic panels, electric bike and smart phone charging stations, and park-wide public Wi-Fi.

The announcement of these enhancements comes on the heels of the initiation of construction of the park coffee shop. Yaniv Pardo Architects, the firm responsible for the design (pictured below), will also be integral in future park renovations (header image) and the addition of an amphitheater and bike path.

Gan Sacher is the first in a pilot program. If proven successful, similar technological upgrades will be made in other areas of the city.

Gan Sacher Gets High-Tech

Emek Refaim and The Light Rail


Emek Refaim, the ‘Main Street’ of the German Colony, has been in decline for a number of years. Mainstay shops and restaurants have closed and now the sidewalks are peppered with empty storefronts and underperforming businesses.  Some blame the opening of the nearby First Station, an outdoor complex that offers visitors ample parking, upscale dining and an abundance of free activities and concerts. Others claim that it’s the exorbitant rents that businesses can no longer keep up with. Regardless of the underlying issue, a big change is coming…

Enter the Light Rail

Spanning 21 kilometers and passing through 34 stations, the blue line of the Jerusalem light rail network will be a complex engineering undertaking. When completed it will transport 10,000 commuters during peak morning hours. Many main roads will become shared or completely closed to automobiles. Much like the red line on Yafo Street, there will be a need for innovative traffic solutions.

Emek Refaim functions as a main artery for morning commuters. It has proven to be one of the locations most in need of a creative plan. Residents in the buildings on and around the street rely on it for their cars, but Emek Refaim is not suited for two light rail tracks and a two-lane road. The solution to this issue was to divide Emek Refaim into three sections: North, Central and South.

Northern Emek Refaim will host one light rail lane and a one-way car lane. The car lane will go down the street (north to south) and feed into Masaryk. The light rail lane will be a junction shared by trains going in either direction.

Northern Emek Light Rail

Central Emek Refaim will host two light rail lanes. There will be no automobile traffic between Masaryk and Rachel Imeinu .

Central Emek Light Rail

Southern Emek Refaim will host two light rail lanes and one car lane. The car lane will go up Emek Refaim from Kornblum Garden (south to north) and feed left into Rachel Imeinu. The remaining road south of Kornblum Garden will feed into Ben Zakai.

Southern Emek Light Rail

This schematic clarifies the traffic flow:

Emek Refaim Light Rail Schematic

Sidewalks, Trees and Demolition 

Once construction is completed, Emek Refaim will cease to function as it has in the past. Morning commuters will be forced to use alternative routes. The road will exist exclusively as a means for locals to come and go, leaving the area mostly free of traffic and thus safer and more appealing to pedestrians.

Along with the light rail installation will come several beautification projects. The sidewalks along Emek Refaim will be resurfaced with pavers and made handicap accessible. Obstructions such as trees and poles that encroach on the walkways will be removed and replaced with trees in more appropriate locations. The planters that dominate the sidewalks across from the post office will also be removed. Additionally, the intersection between Emek Refaim and Rachel Imeinu will become a small pedestrian square.

Sidewalk Tree on Emek Refaim Emek Refaim Planters

The singular casualty of the construction will be the Mandate-era building that currently houses the newly renovated Coffee Mill. Because it protrudes slightly more than the other buildings on the block, it impinges on space needed for the light rail project. Instead of renovating the building, the municipality has decided to demolish and replace it.

A source at the 20-year old establishment claimed that the municipality failed to inform them of the decision and it was only discovered at a meeting of local proprietors. The Coffee Mill plans on remaining in business, but it is unknown where they will move or if they will even stay in the neighborhood when the demolition begins.

 Tachanat HaCafe Protruding Building On Emek Emek Refaim 23

What To Expect

The blue line is a massive project that is expected to begin running in just over a decade. The anticipated year of completion is 2025/6. During this period, maneuvering through the streets will be complicated, there will be higher levels of pollution, and local establishments will suffer.

Ultimately, the project will result in a city where citizens can feel safer, travel faster and be more connected. It’s just going to take a while.

Blue Line on Emek Refaim
Emek Refaim/HaMelits (The Post Office Building)
Blue Line on Emek Refaim and Rachel Imeinu
Emek Refaim/Rachel Imeinu

Emek Refaim and The Light Rail

Sea Israel: The Gottesman Aquarium

Jerusalem Aquarium

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is the most frequented paid attraction in Israel. With more than 750,000 annual guests, it trumps even the almost-ritually visited Masada. In an effort to maintain and improve upon this impressive achievement, the zoo is planning a major expansion that is estimated to result in a 40% increase in the size of the campus by 2025. The most significant of the additions is, unquestionably, Sea Israel: The Gottesman Aquarium.

Jerusalem Aquarium 2

Raviv Tal Architects, an Israeli firm that specializes in environmental architecture and zoo design, was chosen to create a unique plan for what will become Israel’s largest aquarium. The result is a 7,000 sqm. building set on a five-acre plot that nestles into the topography of the mountainside and minimally disrupts the landscape.

The structure design is conscious both of the natural surroundings and of energy consumption. The façade will make use of cut Jerusalem stone that will mimic the rock formations in the area and the roof will be covered in vegetation to aid in temperature regulation as well as the absorption of rainwater for use within the facility.

The aquarium will set itself apart by focusing on Israel’s four large water bodies. Specimens from the wildlife and ecosystems of the Red Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea will make the aquarium uniquely Israeli, much in the same way the zoo was differentiated through its biblical branding.  Environment-related topics, like ocean acidification and information about the Red-Dead project, will also feature.

Jerusalem Zoo Expansion Plan.jpg

Construction is expected to conclude in spring 2017, and the aquarium will open its doors in fall 2017.


Sea Israel: The Gottesman Aquarium