Public Housing: An Installation proposal for Safra Square, Jerusalem
The municipality of Jerusalem held an open design competition for installations in several main squares in the city.
SAYA chose to focus on the large municipality Safra square in the city center. Though planned to hold up to 12,000 people, this immense space stands completely vacant most of the year. We found this to be troubling- such a vast empty and un-useful land, standing in the heart of an increasingly unattainable city.
Whilst the municipality sought for “urban bling” ideas in initiating its design competition, our proposal proposed a temporary protest installation. We suggested to temporarily occupy the square with an artificial archeology of two public housing blocks. At the edge of one of them, a typical social-housing flat will arise to full height, with it’s full content all frozen in white. Visitors would be able to walk inside it, sit on the sofas, use the dinning table, and even enjoy the balcony.
This installation was our response to several disturbing phenomena taking place in Israel in general, yet in contemporary Jerusalem in particular:
1. The death of public housing- Public housing blocks are history, and are about to become urban archeology pieces. The government no longer builds housing blocks, or provides affordable housing programs. Developments are left to private investors, oriented by profit and neglecting urban or social needs.
2. “Ghost houses”- The Safra square as a metaphor for the city- planned to occupy the many yet used only by few. The poorest city in Israel is increasingly being bought up by very wealthy yet absent tenants who mainly reside abroad. Young people are forced out as they can not afford to start their lives in the city and remain in it, and “holes” of occupancy are forming dead urban islands in the city, very much like this square.
The installation in the square describes an optimal democratic condition in which the houses of Jerusalem are part of its public sphere, and the public sphere is the house of the people. It invites the public to partake in this monumental vacant space by inviting everyday life to the deserted urban plaza. The apartment provided in the installation is small and modest, yet accessible to all. It aims to provoke memories from the early days of Israeli, when housing policies sought justice, and suggest the right to the city begins at home, yet extends to the public space around it.
The installation in the square describes an optimal democratic condition in which the houses of Jerusalem are part of its public sphere, and the public sphere is the house of the people.
Project: Public Housing Installation
Status: competition proposal, 2010
Client: Jerusalem municipality
Location: Safra Square, Jerusalem
Design: Karen Lee Bar-Sinai, Yehuda Greenfield-Gilat, Chen Farkas
3D Rendering: Hanan Ben-Shoshan