Israel’s early settlers were few in number and possessed little means to achieve their ideological quest to inhabit the Negev. The desert was regarded as a hostile environment that needed to be transformed and tamed. Since, the Negev has developed beyond its founder’s imagination. Be’er Sheva is one of Israel’s fastest growing cities with ambitious development plans to become the metropolis of Israel’s South. In light of this expansion and with growing environmental awareness, desert environments once perceived as threatening are now understood to be fragile and at risk. How can we protect the desert with the same intensity and ingenuity as we sought to transform it over the past 70 years? How can we continue to develop the Negev without destroying it?
Aerial view of campus and surroundings
The proposal recognizes the existing Negev environment as an invaluable asset and seeks to preserve and emphasize its traits as central design elements of the campus. Five large masses containing the Village’s programmes are carved out of the landscape. Their roofs touch to form a continuous roofscape containing local geology, flora and fauna. Here students and visitors can experience vast panoramic views and take time to dream, wonder, disconnect and reflect.
Between the buildings, sunken public spaces form a series of corridors and oases. The overhanging facades, vegetated gardens and multiple water features mediate the harsh climatic conditions. They act as cooling sources on the Village’s microclimate and allow students and visitors to spend as much time possible immersing themselves in the open desert air.
The building’s façade consists of 3D printed concrete elements. Highly textured and intricate, it is reminiscent of local geological formations shaped over millions of years with crevices and holes of various sizes acting as windows and entrances. The façade blends the ancient with the cutting edge, nature and artifact, and expresses an appreciation of the desert on the one hand and an unwavering commitment to push boundaries and innovate technologically on the other.
Touching roofs form a continuous roofscape containing local geology, flora and fauna.
Between the buildings, sunken public spaces form a series of corridors and oases.
Aerial view overlooking arrival area and central plaza
The story of the Negev reflects the story of Israel: despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, chapter by chapter the impossible becomes possible through the ingenuity, grit, and dedication of its people. The JNF World Zionist Village is an opportunity to leverage these traits in order to push forward design and construction strategies for desert environments across Israel and the rest of the world.