A temporary but important change will take place in Bat Yam next month. The city's residents as well as visitors will be given a map by the organizers of this year's biennale, which identifies 18 new sites that are also called "outdoor rooms." Each of the sites will house an installation created by landscape architects and artists, which treats the urban landscape as a space for hospitality. The exhibits will be on display for two weeks, in a project by the Bat Yam International Biennale of Landscape Urbanism, which will kick off on April 13. Both local and foreign artists and architects have worked on the installations. The organizers' aim is to keep at least some of the works, including an urban nature site that will be set up in an open space on Bialik Street, which has been neglected and abandoned.

The Bialik Street exhibit will include a walking path. In addition, vegetation will be planted and a small winter pond built, in an effort to integrate those patches of nature that have remained in the urban expanse. "All of this is being done with the cooperation of residents, who initially worried about whether the site would impinge on their privacy," says Tamar Darel-Fossfeld, one of the biennale's curators and the chairwoman of the Israeli Association of Landscape Architects. The urban nature site is the brainchild of both Darel-Fossfeld and Amir Lotan, another architect. A variety of activities will be held in the city's streets, in hidden park corners and along the beach. The open landscape at some of the sites will be redesigned, whereas the uses of other sites will be changed to suit the needs of the residents, who will then also be able to use these places to host events.

Green fields

The biennale's catalog notes that the event will "deal with hosting activities that are part of everyday life and usually take place in the private space of the home."

Artists Uri Padan and Gilad Ronen will set up the "Garden Portions" exhibit in a large yard that borders a number of cooperative apartment buildings. Each tenant will be allocated a small piece of land in the yard, allowing him to host there and hold activities. Each section will be surrounded by a temporary fence and water and electricity points will be added to the area.

Wallace Verbakle and Eli Derman are behind the installation called "The Neighbor's Grass." This project aims to realize the dream of a green field for every resident. Another garden level will be built next to a ground-floor apartment. The lower level facing the street will include benches, swings and an artificial forest, which will be designed as a place for children to play hide and seek.

The installation entitled "A Small Paradise," by Zvi and Kerem Halbrecht, will be comprised of neighborhood greenhouses and groves of trees, which will be tended by the residents of nearby buildings. The plants will be irrigated with water from domestic use that has undergone purification ("gray water") and fertilized with domestic compost. The architect couple hopes the project will continue to operate even after the biennale comes to an end.

Transforming an ugly wall

Bat Yam is a densely populated city lacking open spaces. And as if that were not enough, its eastern edge is bordered by the Netivei Ayalon highway and an ugly wall blocks off the open space through which the highway runs. Architect Avi Leizer decided to create the "Real Estate" installation on one of this wall's sections. His projects criticizes the alienated relationship between the public and the public spaces that have been blocked off or allocated for other uses. "We will offer the public an opportunity to 'lease' a plot of land for a specific purpose and time in return for a donation," Leizer wrote in his installation's explanation. Among other things, the small compound adjacent to the wall will include a niche for a campfire, a landfill for planting trees, lighting and design elements.

Curator Darel-Fossfeld notes that most of the architects participating in the project did not choose the most attractive setting - the beach - but rather the urban neighborhoods, which are characterized by many different building styles. "This city was a contractors' dream. They could push projects with lots of building rights. No doubt, there is also a lot of ugliness and grayness here," Darel-Fossfeld says. "But Bat Yam was planned on a human scale and without the arrogance that characterizes many of the world's cities. It also has many surprising and beautiful places.

Therefore the works are not trying to transform reality but rather to take advantage of it and use it differently."