Social and environmental groups nationwide have requested the public be consulted before any decisions are reached on the redesign of Tel Aviv’s iconic Dizengoff Square.
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The square, which was designed in the 1930s by architect Genia Auerbach as a roundabout with a fountain centerpiece, was revamped in 1978 with a raised area to alleviate traffic congestion.
In 2011, the Tel Aviv Municipality decided to lower the square to ground level and construct a parking lot there, after a survey of the city's residents found most approved of the idea.
For the past few months, the landscape architectural firm of Moria-Sekely has been planning how the space will look after the raised section is leveled.
But last week, a letter was sent to Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, urging him to consult the public on the new design.
Mor Gilboa, CEO of the environmental group Green Course and one of the signatories to the letter, asked “why the voice of the public is not being considered in the planning that will impact so many residents and visitors, precisely on an issue that residents contended with for a long time." He also expressed concern over the fate of 11 80-year-old ficus trees in the area.
Architect Zvi Lishar, who planned the raised square in 1978, is also angry that he has not been asked to take part in the renewed planning. “A contract is signed with an artist that his creation may not be touched. An architect doesn’t sign such a contract,” he said, referring to the stabile by artist Yaakov Agam that was placed in the square eight years after it was raised. Lishar says the stabile “is too big and blocks the views. Everyone talks about urban space but if it stays, it will continue to block the field of vision.”
Lishar says the city should consider alternatives to demolishing the raised area of the square, such as providing incentives to coffee shops and boutiques to take up commercial space around the square, and to add shade and other elements. If the demolition goes forward, he says, “instead of the square of today, there will be an upgraded traffic island 60 meters in diameter surrounded by a clogged traffic artery with sidewalks around it. Who’s going to sit on those sidewalks with cars and buses?”
The Tel Aviv municipality responded: “At this point, professional planning officials are working hard on preliminary planning to lower the square. When the results of the planning are received, they will be presented to the public as is the procedure in similar cases. The ficus trees in the square are being taken into account in the planning; most of the trees which have a high degree of conservation value, will be preserved. We note that 50 new trees will be planted in the renewed square.”