Reaching New Heights

The Israeli skyline is soaring, and not only in Tel Aviv. A look at the trend toward vertical construction as reflected in six skyscrapers that will go up in the coming years.

A city's history can be read in its buildings. In Rome, these are the Colosseum and the ancient Forum; in Berlin, the Reichstag and the remains of the wall that split East from West; and in New York it is the avenues of impressive skyscrapers.

And what about Tel Aviv? It too can increasingly be characterized today by its tall buildings, from the pioneering Shalom Tower that was built on the ruins of the Herzliya Gymnasium, through the iconic Azrieli Towers, to the Neveh Zedek Tower that has become the most extreme expression of the public fight against construction upwards.

The tall buildings have become the most prominent urban creations in Israel, for good and for ill. In the past decade, the increasing population density along the coast together with the planning authorities' guiding hand have brought about a considerable change in the Israeli skyline. However, what has happened until now pales alongside what is to come, as other cities like Petah Tikva, Nesher, Netanaya and Ashdod prepare to enter the skyscraper arena. These localities all hope to erect skyscraper districts that will be equivalent to the Stock Exchange area in Ramat Gan, if not to overtake it.

In Tel Aviv alone, nearly 100 new tall buildings are planned. In Jerusalem a comprehensive plan for multi-story construction in the center of town has been approved, and the same goes for Petah Tikva, whereas in Hod Hasharon, a competition is now under for the construction of the first tall building, which rise to a ninimum of 20 stories.

In an attempt to sketch a picture of the situation of the changing Israeli skyline, we have selected a number of tall buildings in the works, each of which represents a different trend in terms of design, geographical location and aspiration to reach new heights.

High-rise in the capital: Bikur Holim Hospital Towers

Architect Moti Bodek

Client: Bikur Holim Hospital, which belongs to businessman Arcady Gaydamak.

The issue of high-rise construction in the center of Jerusalem was for many years a subject of heated dispute, between inhabitants and green organizations, on the one hand , and the municipality, on the other. A few years ago, for the first time, two plans were approved for a scattering of high-rises around the city, and the issue of building rights. The first is architect Ayala Ronel's plan for bloc 50 and the second is a plan for the city center by Arie Kotz, of Nir-Kotz Architects.

The Bikur Holim Hospital, situated at the corner of Strauss and Hanevi'im streets, in the very heart of the capital, is one of the first institutions to want to put up high-rises on its land. The intention is to build two hospital towers of 17 stories each, for a mix of medical uses, including hospital departments, a nursing school, private medical services and possibly also private clinics.

In this case, the person behind the project is Israeli-Russian businessman Arcady Gaydamak, who bought the hospital for $35 million and has already started putting money into funding the preservation work on the historic existing structure. At the moment, the master plan for the city allows the construction of only 6,000 square meters but Gaydamak now wants to be granted larger building rights. He argues that the original building rights are not appropriate for the hospital's functioning as an important and central structure in the city and as a catalyst for intensive urban activity.

The tallest: the Elite Tower in Ramat Gan

Tito Architects in cooperation with the American firm Arquitectonica

Developer: Azorim, Gan Elite

The high-rise battle between Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan erupted in the 1960s, with the Diamond Exchange's decision to build its new home on the Ramat Gan side of the Ayalon Highway. The city's then-mayor succeeded in luring the Diamond Exchange heads with permits for high-rise construction and various benefits and thus, the first in a series of tall buildings at the site, the Shimshon Tower, went up. Despite the meager infrastructures and flawed urban planning, the Diamond Exchange district has developed well.

The Elite Tower, The most interesting building that is due to go up there in the near future, is also expected to take the title of tallest building in Israel. The structure is slated for the rear part of the former Elite plant lot, and will soar to the height of 70 stories. Beyond its height, it is also extraordinary in its plan for mixed use. The architects define the project as "a city within a building, as opposed to a building within a city." Two floors are intended for commerce, 19 floors are intended for offices, 10 floors are intended for a boutique hotel and another 40 floors for residential use - altogether 100,000 square meters of floor space. The current plans also show a helicopter landing pad on the roof.

Tall evacuation-construction: Kiryat Ha'amanim in Rishon Letzion

Feigin Architects

Developer: Dunitz Brothers

Evacuation-construction projects (by which tenants enable high-rise construction to take place in their building, in return for an apartment in a new project) were one of the great hopes for urban renewal in Israel, but bureaucratic difficulties on the one hand and a lack of cooperation on the part of houseowners on the other, have caused problems in many places. Thus, an evacuation-construction project in eastern Rishon Letzion, between Givati, Bmei Zion, Hanegev and David Elazar Streets, is only the second of 122 planned projects of this sort to get under way in the country. In the area that will be evacuated, a total of 60 dunams, a row of buildings between 22 and 33 stories high each will be built. Between them, they will hold 1,400 apartments in a total built-up area of 170,00 square meters. Unlike the vast majority of high-rise buildings in Israel, the project is not intended for luxury housing, but rather for current inhabitants of the neighborhood and the middle class. Construction on the first building began recently, and most of the apartments in it have already been sold "at a reasonable price for anyone," according to the developer. However, as has been the case withother high-rises, there is a chance that maintenance fees will be higher than the usual house committee dues and could ultimately liable to prove burdensome for tenants.

A vertical couthouse: The Courts Building in Tel Aviv

Rechter Architects (responsible architects: Amnon Rechter, Avi Dorner, Roy Gordon)

Client: Israel Ministry of Justice

The new, 28-story (100 meters) office building that is to be erected at the eastern edge of Weizmann Street in Tel Aviv will serve as an expanded space for the District and Magistrate's Courts. The original structure from the 1960s was planned by Yaakov Rechter, and is considered a masterpiece of modernist Israeli architecture. Rechter's son Amnon is in charge of planning the new building, which is to rise on the site of the employees' parking lot on the western side of the complex. According to Rechter, its positioning of the tower on the site is aimed at maintaining the "iconic view" one has of the existing building when seen from Weizmann Street. The most striking element of the new tower will be its varied facade, a double screen wall that will allow for considerable energy savings, and extraordinary control over the shading of the interior spaces. The special facade also enables the creation of a transparent building, without use of reflective glass - a statement of sorts about the transparency of justice.

This is one of the few high-rises in Israel that is being built as a public building, and the first to house courts. It will hold scores of courtrooms and offices, and will offer separate traffic systems to the public, judges and prisoners, as well as other unique functions required by the Justice Ministry.

The building is in the planning stages, prior to the selection of the construction company. The design will allow for an additional 30 meters to be added to the new building in the future.

The last tall building in the White City: 46 Frishman Street in Tel Aviv

Moore Yasky Sivan Architects (associate architect: Rachel Feller).

Developer: Euro Sat Investments

The Frishman Tower is almost certainly the last high-rise building that will go up in the heart of Tel Aviv.

In the wake of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's designation of the Bauhaus-rich White City as a World Heritage Site in 2003, high-rise construction has been prohibited in the core of the city.

Since plans for this structure were submitted as early as the 1980s, though, approval was permitted to proceed.

For years there was a deep pit at the site, a remnant of the previous round of planning for a tall building.

Construction has recently got under way at the site, though.

The new high-rise will have 29 stories (107 meters) intended for about 70 luxury apartments, with a commercial floor opening onto Dizengoff and Frishman Streets.

On the building's southern side, facing Queen Esther Street, there will be a small park that will serve as an entry plaza, and that will be open, it is to be hoped, not only to the tower's wealthy residents, but also to others who live in the neighborhood.

The interiors will be by the well-known designer Alex Meitlis.

Construction is expected to be completed in three years.

High-rise construction outside of Tel Aviv: City Tower in Ashdod

Yaar Architects

Developer: Resido

Along with the intensive soaring of high-rise buildings in the country's center, major cities like Ashdod, Haifa and Be'er Sheva also aspire to build towers in their jurisdictions, as definite urban icons meant to represent economic and development capability. The tallest building that is now being planned outside of the Dan region (greater Tel Aviv) is the City Tower, a prestigious residential high-rise of 40 stories located in Ashdod's City Plaza.

The plaza is presently flanked by a mall, office buildings, city hall, the Ashdod Museum (in the Monart Center) and the new performing arts center. The aim of the Yaar Architects' plan is to upgrade the plaza and redesign it by means of improving the connection to the nearby performing arts center, and as result increase activity in and use of the plaza. The high-rise itself will be comprised of 140 luxury apartments of various sizes, each of which, because of the structure's special configuration, will enjoy an open sea view.