The Harish Forest Park

designed by /

Location: Israel / Type: Look-outs / Nature Paths / Parks / Built: 2021 /
Published on March 25, 2024

The right to experience Nature in the city

We were all standing around a long line of small saplings – rows of pink summer savory, Syrian Acanthus, bristly hollyhock, shrubby germander, and wild barley, along with many other species. “How will we be able to identify them with all the weeds that will be sprouting up here?” asked the maintenance people. “You’ll get to know them,” responded the municipal landscaping workers.

We felt that a new chapter was beginning in the relationship between us, landscape architects, and the authorities, that there was an understanding in how important it is to have zones of natural growth for city dwellers, that people have the right to experience the seasonal phenomena of nature, to see the bold green of the winter and the parched yellow of summer, how important it is to practice viewing natural beauty, like developing a muscle. We completed the project – and now – Let Nature continue the work…

Public accessibility to natural spaces has a direct contribution to our quality of life and health. There are now scientific proofs that state that spending time in nature improves mental and physical health. Studies speak of the efficacy of benefits to wellbeing, psychological, spiritual and financial health. Theories present a link between physical bodily health and the landscape in which one lives. This connection determines, among other factors, that one’s natural environment lowers stress parameters and helps increase concentration. Human health has a direct connection to the experience of the landscape, which means that we must open discussion of the right of each person to nature as a significant component of his environs – now and in the future.

The Forest Park stretches over 260 dunams (approx. 65 acres) along the western side of the city of Harish in a strip 150 m wide and 1.75 km long at the foot of the city. The Park area is located between two infrastructure roads passing along its length. In the east, the path of the sewage line runs through the upper section which is adjacent to houses, while on the slope very close to Highway 6, is the path of the gas line. Between these two paths is a complete universe: an evergreen forest has been planted here, a shrub-steppe area, steep limestone cliffs, an open grove, a forest park, buckthorn, spiny broom, and mastic trees. This is a close-by landscape with bustling movement visible from acoustic glazed windows and a distant landscape viewed from the direction of the smaller villages.

Beginnings are not always intentional

The planning process began with a fierce struggle to preserve the strip of natural land entrusted to us for the Park. Various authorities sought to create an acoustic barrier for Harish residents by building a new hill that would have covered the majority of the open public space to block the noise from the highway. It would have been a dump site for the construction earth, rising up to a 10 m height for 1.5 km. The long strip of natural land with its dozens of trees, variety of species, and different views, was going to be flattened under the proposed acoustic barrier.

We opposed it and offered alternatives, in an attempt to persuade the authorities of the value of the area. Moreover, future construction of the city and pressure to build on open areas would only increase.

The battle took place in heated discussions and tempestuous meetings, accompanied by loud discussions. When the decision to build the acoustic wall was finalized, leaving the area as a nature park, we felt that with this small step, we fulfilled our role as landscape architects. Anything additional was a plus.

Continuation | This trail begins with a scythe and a GPS

The issue of how extensive would be the development of the area was the basis of our planning throughout the entire process. How should we develop a city park for its residents while preserving the biological diversity, the untouched areas, and the experience of nature? How would we reveal the hidden corners on the trail, and maintain undisturbed zones of nature, where we could still observe turtles, fox footprints, or a porcupine?

The plan laid out an area for development and conservation that changed along the Park: the Upper Promenade would be an area more extensively developed; picnic areas inviting the public to use the space daily; the wheelchair accessible path and winter pond enabling the experience of a walk in the woods and moist environment to those with disabilities, and the northern section’s nature trail as an area for minimal development.

The Upper Promenade area adjacent to construction also serves as an emergency road and access for firefighters’ vehicles. Along the path we placed lighting installations and seating areas. At the side of the buildings we planted tall vegetation to create a barrier and maintain residents’ privacy. Along the Promenade we planned entrances for each of the different Park areas, each with trees and benches over paved areas with orientation directions into the Park.

The center path, running north to south through the entire length of the Park, enables visitors to walk through varied zones. As we prepared its route, we were assisted by a parks maintenance man holding a scythe who cleared a path through the weeds and thorns. His measurement instrument had a GPS marking out the route that was just broken through (and which was covered with weeds one week after we were there…). In laying down the route, some of our desires were to walk through a thicket of flowering bushes, exposed bedrock, between large carob trees, and near interesting earth folds in the rocks. The trail extends in the north up to Raz Garden and passes through the lookout structure. It then continues north as a hiking path towards the entrance to the city.

Thirteen generously-sized picnic nooks of differing sizes are distributed along a wide area enabling both small and large families to spend time with a sense of spaciousness and privacy. Uniquely designed benches leaning on large boulders have been placed on the sides of the trail. Hidden game tables stand in concealed spaces under shady carob trees, incised with board games, carved into the stone tabletop.
Signage we designed in the spirit of the forest line the trail. Some show orientation location on logs, while other signs featuring botanical drawings of the wild plants in the area, challenge visitors to “Find me”, inviting people on an adventurous search through the Park.

At the heart of the Park is an accessible area comprising a concrete walkway from the Upper Promenade, through accessible picnic nooks, to the area of the Moist Meadow, It is here that the surface runoff and water from the gutters of the upper sections drains into the Meadow, stopped in a basin in which varied water vegetation has been planted. Earth terraces surround the Moist Meadow, with trees and a variety of vegetation form a rich habitat based on the moist earth.

Conclusion | illumination from afar

The Park as a whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts, but we would like to draw special attention to each of the components.

Entrances – Entrance to the Forest Park is through five entrances, each leading to a different section. The entrances from the Upper Promenade were designed as a paved area with a bench we designed, shade trees, soft floor-installed lighting, and unique illustrated tiles featuring different drawings according to the various trees growing in the Park.

Picnic nooks – The picnic nooks are well spaced along the main path of both sides, each bounded by terrace walls made of flat rocks. The walls integrate a shelf for a charcoal barbecue grill. As part of the project’s furniture design, we designed designated picnic tables and benches to create a uniform design language. Some of the picnic nooks are integrated into areas with existing trees, while we planted new shade trees in some of them.

The “boulder benches” – The wooden seating benches were designed in the same design language as the other park furniture, one end resting on the side of a large local boulder. After concluding the trail signage on site, we placed the benches in shaded areas, each providing a different experience of the landscape.

Stone boardgame tables – In the northern section of the Forest Park along the path, underneath the canopy of the large carob tree, we installed stone tables with ancient board games carved into each tabletop by the artist Chen Winkler. Players can use stones or acorns to play, or a couple or a group can choose to picnic on the table.

Signage – Signage is an integral part of the Forest Park’s activities and design language. We designed it with careful attention to the spirit of the Forest and the integration of wild plants which add to the experience of nature changing with the seasons.

The Moist Meadow – This is a low area, the drainage basin for the overflow water from the city. The idea behind it was to enlarge the filtration area to the underground area to prevent flooding on the slope as well as to increase the botanical and biological variety in this place. The Moist Meadow is comprised of several earth terraces in which a stepped variety of vegetation is planted, characteristic of moist zones. Around the meadow we created lines of accessible concrete pathways, small wooden bridges crossing places where water crosses the road, and benches for seating. Around the circumference we planted vegetation typical of fruit gardens and plantings with edible fruit. Giant reeds were planted at the center of the meadow to create a tall, dense thicket where we hope varied habitats will be formed for various creatures.

The overlook structure – The structure, visible from near and afar, easily seen from Highway 6, overlooks the steady flow of vehicles on the highway as well as nearby villages. The airy, boxlike structure is made of thin metal profiles creating a place we defined as “a place to dream,” an overlook framing the distant landscape. At this point the visitor can sit on a lone rock, dream, and watch the light bursting through all around.

We sincerely hope that the Forest Park will be a refuge, balm, and place of calm for the residents of Harish and all those wishing to experience changing nature only a short step from the city.

Project Data

Landscape Architecture: BO Landscape Architecture

Size: 270,000 sq.m.
Location: Harish, Israel
Architect in Charge: Liat Oren
Office Architect: Dani Guiness
Contractor: A. Bouton Road Construction and Development Ltd.
Supervision: Yoram Shushan– Adi Hadar, Engineers
Client: Ministry of Construction and Housing of Israel
Status: Completed, 2021
Photography: Yoav Peled

One thought on "The Harish Forest Park by BO Landscape Architecture"

  1. Mekki Gabriel says:

    Free Palestine

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