Amir Lotan: Construction and urban development often have unpredictable and fragmented side effects, the sum of which form specific landscapes. As a society, we tend to ignore, repress and suppress the consequences of our own building actions on a space, denying our responsibility. These consequences mainly exist outside traditional urban life and have unique identities, aesthetics and statutory definitions. A common “consequence” is the plant-life that grows on the edge of built sites. These margins become habitats for various species and plants that thrive and grow in that particular environment. Predominant to said habitats are invasive and potentially harmful plant species, which may threaten surrounding ecosystems. In most cases, when these ruderal plants appear, we try to get eliminate them. However, are these definitions relevant in the context of built and landscaped urban environments?
The surface of these habitats is mostly comprised of raw materials such as construction debris, infrastructure leftovers, hills of dirt and piles of abandoned asphalt. Bat-Yam’s industrial zone (now undergoing a transformation into a multi-purpose business district) is a “margin” in many ways; it is a dense residential area apart from the city’s main arteries, it is home to many abandoned buildings, parts of it are located adjacent to the city limits, and it reveals a dilapidated urban tissue. During my work there, I encountered said characteristics and materials, and therefore sought to spotlight the ignored areas that were defined by them. For example, an area’s natural aesthetic and texture can be highlighted and strengthened by accepting and purposefully introducing more of the “invasive” vegetation that defines the site’s edges. ”Side Effect” attempts to alter and deconstruct the urban landscape into the very elements that constructed it, in order to re-imagine and re-use them to create a new identity for an existing site.
The site on which “Side Effect” is located is at the fault line between the city’s residential and industrial areas, in what can be called an “intermediate” zone. The area does not fulfill its purpose, according to the city’s plan, and is therefore abandoned. The site itself comprises of a building, surrounded by a concrete wall and barbed wire. Prior to the project, the abandoned building skeleton was used as a dumping ground by the surrounding residents and business owners, filled with refuse material including that from a nearby garage. The site is bordered by industry and residences and public facilities including a high school, a religious school, a paper mill and a few small stores. In my plan, I tried to create a bridge between the industrial zone and the residential one. The building skeleton at the site was the basis of the work. By paring down the structure and defining additional space around it, a new site was created. After the removal of the Asbestos roof, an impressive steel construction was exposed. The interior walls were dismantled for safety reasons and some new openings were created through the external walls, so as to connect the building with its surroundings. Furthermore, another concrete wall with an elevated wire fence that originally blocked the site from the street and buildings was removed. The concrete was then sliced up and recycled to form a horizontal plane that defines a new entrance to the site. By doing so, of the building was semi “digested”; as certain parts of the building were carved and dismantled, they were used as the raw materials for reshaping the site. These pieces symbolize the rebirth of the newly constructed site. The structure’s external walls’ original coating of cement-seashell compound blocks was left, while the internal walls were painted in the shade of yellow that is typically used for “Hazard” signs; a visual expression of the ecological threat of the invasive species.
The floor of the site was planned as a kind of perforated asphalt “carpet”. In the holes of this newly created floor ruderal plants were planted, including Margosa trees. The planting holes were bordered by old tires from the nearby garage. In addition, sprinklers were hung from the newly exposed steel roof, to mist the air three times a day, in coordination with the adjacent high school’s recesses. Thus, the site was transformed into a refreshing space for the people of the area, especially for the students who now see it as an informal extension of their schoolyard. The site also serves the local business owners and vendors as a place of rest during their lunch hour. The owner of the previously mentioned garage has become the site’s informal caretaker, protecting it from vandalism and other threats. The now active site allows the city to explore alternative social activities and locations.
Landscape Architecture: Amir Lotan, Landscape Architect
Location: Intersection of Ort Israel and Melacha Streets, Bat Yam
Cost: 300,000 NIS (roughly 84,000 USD)
Site size: 2,000 square meters
Structure size: 300 square meters
Commissioned by: Bat-Yam Municipality – Bat-Yam Biennale of Landscape Urbanism 2010-
curators: prop.Yael moria, Sigal barnir.