Housing Project Old City, Ramle, Israel
The project site was in the old city of Ramle, a place where the past and the present bisect one another. Each leaving its marks on the other's memory. In the far history, the city was a vibrant trade city, today, a city with a negative image where the gaps in attitude towards the different cultures by the authorities, the insensibility to the place values and history and the lack of continues of the planning make a field of errors and possibilities, problems and opportunities. The site and its surroundings constructed from layers of development, the process of neglect and destruction reveals its past and story. the site, sown with old stone ruins of buildings from the Muslim periods, partly covered by a concrete layer 2 meters thick, is positioned between a tourist and trade street and the colorful Ramle market, and between the main commercial avenue and a narrow ally in the Armenian quarter. My first instinct was to address the conflict raging between the ethnic groups in the city, a conflict that produces, in my perception, the building of many of the cities walls that separate between communities. Walls are the easiest way to resolve a dispute, when there's a lack of a confrontation spaces between the communities in-between spaces where they can meet.
Through the project I worked with a four key subjects that guided and determined the results of the work:
- Conflict zones how do neighbors acts towards each other. How to create situations the encourage friction between neighbors. Each action a tenant do influence his neighbor and the public space. That way reciprocal relation takes place. Each tenant face the uneasy question what kind of neighbor is he? - Open Source - borrowed from the computer world, this concept is used to describe a program or device that its code is open to view, edit and redistribute. This notion enables anyone to take part in the creation of a product and contribute to its development. In Ramle this concept gets a new/old face the autonomous building of additions to houses, made from the need of new houses for expanding population that suffers from neglect by the authorities. These custom made additions represent an open source way for designing buildings. - Typology in the site area, I spotted two main typologies. The first is the vernacular buildings in the old city giving comfortable human scale, a visual variety and complex and rich spatial experience. The other is the social housing buildings (called locally the train complexes) introduces order and organizing of the urban space and a good density open spaces ratio. Through the project I've tried to unify the two typologies in order to create a new kind of building which consist of a verity of apartment types and spaces joined together in a building that fit the foot print of a social housing complex. - Life cycles the building would undergo several cycles. Every cycle would start in the populating of the building by young couples, continued by the evolving and the expansion of the family cell, aging, shrinking and resettling by new tenants. And so forth. The building would age with his tenants, its looks would change, its volume, the finishing materials would become obsolete and replaced and the building would be swallowed in the surrounding and express the culture of those who inhabit it.
The building system I offer would unify the four subjects. In each structure a set of basic apartments, each have a predefined space to develop and expand, adjacent to the circulation system and restricted by it. The tenants have a choice, as it fits to their needs, whether to leave these spaces public or make them private by adding a fence, building a room etc. every decision and action would inflict the in-between spaces in the building in its openness in a way that would necessitate a reciprocal relations between neighbors, may spark argument or stimulate a collaboration correspondingly to the atmosphere between the tenants the share that space.
the dynamic of the changes the building can withstand mainly depends on the structural system. This system represents the open source concept from the developer side. This is the skeleton on which the user can operate on. It defines the rules and methods. The skeleton is visible and reveled to all. The building's constructive system composed by a massive concrete frame built along the length of the building's core, to that frame, a lighter frame made by concrete or steel would be attached. The materials of the new building additions built over time would be determined by its adjacency to the original system and its type.
The site, as mentioned before, constitutes a challenging space, combining natural and manmade topography, stone ruins and local politics. To encourage the initial volumes I developed, I chose to place them on the original built trail in a way which incorporate the new buildings with the old ones, use a familiar proportions and preserve the original circulation routes. The dispersing of the structures in that way allow a creation of spaces between the buildings that constitute the public realm made to be used by a wider public and different kinds of users.
With time and by the progress of the building scheme and methods, the in-between space evolved and changed. The concrete slab that covered part of the site is to be removed; the ground level of the market in the adjacent street set the height of the neighborhood commercial space designed in the west part of the project. Other levels heightened in order to disconnect public oriented spaces from the private ones. In that way a system of levels and passages in and between the structures was created that integrates in a larger system. The buildings and the spaces surrounds them will have a mutual relations. The nature of the public space will be influenced by the degree of observation achieved by the building's facades, the area of the space and its level. The nature of the facades their shape, and the amount of possible expansion will be determined the type of public space adjacent. For instance: the facade in the commercial area would be made of a trade facades in the first floor and a predefined shape of the floor above it, in contrast, the facades adjacent to spaces meant only for the use of tenants would have expansion fields that puncture into the public space.