Conceived from their outset as isolated single-use enclaves bearing little or no relation to their immediate physical and natural urban context, Jerusalem’s technology parks at Malcha and Har Hotzvim initiated by the Jerusalem Development Authority have failed completely in relating appropriately to their surroundings. Often apparent too is a cold and superficial “package-design” approach to their architecture, each company, as in Har Hotzvim, building an advertisement to itself.
Organized within an internal ring road which effectively cuts its off from its neighbors — a shopping center, sports stadium and residential neighborhood, the technology park at Malcha, first populated in 1996, was designed as a closed campus.
The sites sharply sloping topography was levelled by bulldozers. One very unfortunate result is the retaining wall three stories in height all along Agudat Hasport Macabbi Street opposite the Jerusalem Mall. Having severed any connection with its neighbors, entirely overlooked was a golden economic opportunity (which still exists today) for the design of over 10,000 square meters of commercial apace opposite the Mall within the park’s area. Excellent public transportation – four bus lines, a railroad station and a planned light-rail station are close by. Below street level: two levels of offices with parking as needed can be accessed from the existing ring road.
Har Hotsvim, built in the early seventies at the northwestern edge of Jerusalem, is no less than 500 dunams in area. Incredibly, it was designed with just a single entrance. One’s first impression is of an enormous steeply sloping parking lot, its buildings situated in those rare leftover areas free of automobiles, the “park”, nowhere in sight.
Fifty years on it is finally undergoing major improvements and expansion. Planned are several new roads with additional entrances, pedestrian ways, landscaping, underground parking and private commercial services such as a kindergarten to serve the needs of some 15,000 employees in the future. But the major design errors that were made initially will be almost impossible to correct today.
The basic planning principles guiding the creation of technology parks in Israel need clearly to be re-examined. Fully integrating technology parks into their surroundings can be acheived by sensitively responding to their existing urban context with mixed use – residential, office and commercial space without, most especially on their peripheries, and within the parks themselves.
Building facades should define a continuous open space and pedestrian system, “sleeping” cars underground. Their design should be varied, the whole reflecting continuity and order, an organized and coherent complexity enabling human identification, open additive and receptive.