Name of the project: Mevaseret Zion Conservatory
Project Location: Mevaseret Zion, Israel
Architects: Rolka Studio
Area: 1700 sq. m
Year of Competition: 2016
The design for Mevaserat Zion Conservatory had to be determined through a public competition, which incited the participation of a total of eighty-five bids, among which, the proposal by Rolka Studio was declared winner. The competition involved cooperation of the Local Council of Mevaserat Zion, the Israeli Architects Association and Musicon Association.
The design program includes spaces for a concert hall, as well as a diverse need for learning and performance areas, and practice rooms for the choir and the orchestra and a dance centre.
“The authors related to the contexts between music and nature, as well as to the dialogue between the built environment and the natural one. The winning offer refers appropriately to both sides of the site – a contentious built mass towards the city and an organic facade towards nature. The offer shows an original and interesting building proposal…” – (From the summery of the committee jurisdiction)
The proposal offered by the Rolka studio, speaks of a strong connect with nature, to the architecture of the space, that is, the built form, as well as to the soul of the space, that is, the music. The proposal can be distinctively identified as a myriad of aspects considered by the architects, in order to achieve a holistic ideal, which would reflect spatiality and comforting design as the prevailing notions.
Components of the Architectural Language: Music and Nature
The design idea was formulated based on the uniqueness of the aspects the program had to offer, which include the musical values, as well as the natural values. The architectural language, therein, develops from relating the two aspects, in order to ensure heightened senses with regard to user experience. The design evolves, not solely from the geographical situation of the site, but even the climactic factors that generate the natural context for the site, and it strives to create an environment where one realizes ‘the relationship between the creator and nature, performance and landscape, and sound and topography’.
The location of the site in in Mevaserat Zion City, which is situated on a mountain ridge on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and straddles both sides of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway. Within the city, the project is located centrally within this urban context. Moreover, the building is cited to be an essential public landmark, and activity centre, and invite the community for usage participation. The importance of the design of a building of this stature
cannot be undermined.
Also, the site is located at a vital junction, with regard to the green spaces in Mevaserat, for it connects three kinds of public open spaces within the city, them being a continuous urban public space, lying to the north, the Hare’el Nature Park, and a neighbourhood public space which is in the south. Therefore, the site is within a context which speaks of urban growth, as well as natural spaces. In accordance with that, the project resembles an unfolding
organic form, with staggered mass, which brings the natural spaces within the structure of the building, reminiscent of the urban fabric of Mevaserat Zion, wherein the green valley juxtaposes into the neighbourhoods. Through the mass of the building, a scenic pathway passes through, which is a medium of connecting the urban square and the natural valley. Inviting hikers to take the pathway, through the structure, increases the overall connect of the conservatory to a variety of visitors.
The Building and the Program
As the overall form of the building develops into its organic self in accordance with the lines of nature, the building itself comprises of two floors. The appearance of the ground floor is a derivation of the natural surroundings, with its construction being of natural stone walls, the idea adopted from old traces located adjacently. The upper floor, on the other hand, seemingly appears to be a collective of bright, floating boxes.
Adhering to the natural topography, the lower floor is folded into the ground, and thereby, from the street side, one can view only the upper floor, assumedly projecting from the ground, with open views being seen from the surrounding neighbourhood.
Since the essential ideology behind the conservatory is the multiple of programs it offers, it was important to uphold the identity of every space, and yet design for various vital connections and relationships within. Therefore, the private learning spaces have been situated in the very outskirts of the project, offering direct as well as open views towards the distant natural landscape, giving a sense of tranquility. However, the group learning spaces and common music practice rooms have been designed nearer to the public area of the building, allowing for interactions with the public, and random and relatively casual shows for visitors, encouraging social growth in the community. The performance spaces, such as the auditorium, as well as the dance centre and the rock rooms have been designed as self functioning areas, for they have separate entrances for access, and can operate independently.
The planning of the building is indicative of a traditional Greek village, which derives its orientation from the natural topography, appears to grow from the valley, and then is moulded into a combination of habitable and public spaces. The design speaks of a dialogue between nature, and the built form. As architects in the current scenario, not only are sustainability and climate responsiveness vital objectives, but the meandering of the two to create serene spatiality is an architectural aspiration. The architectural language creates a delicate balance between an object or an icon and a “soft” structure that fits its natural environment. Moreover, the project offers numerous flexible alternatives, viable for teachers as well as students who are a part of the music centre, be it while presenting music
on a stage to the whole city, or be it a private learning space, with its affiliation with nature being conducive to the learning process.
The design of the Conservatory reflects, in all its elements, the principles propagated by the Rolka Studio. Their approach to designing is based on thorough research, and site specific designing, to achieve contemporary architecture. Their practice involve incorporation of different techniques and design methods, and a tendency to involve different team members in every project.
A multidisciplinary design group, based in Tel Aviv and London, Rolka Studio was established in 2011, and has been engaged with various features of architecture, includingexperimenting with building design, urban planning, fabrication and temporary installations.
Their first win in a major public competition was in 2014, a proposal for Technion’s Entry Gates, designed in Haifa (in collaboration with Arch Gaby Schwartz from Schwartz Bessnosof Architects).
The winning proposal for the Mevaserat Zion Conservatory, in 2016, is yet another commendable achievement, decidedly another milestone in the far reaching trajectory and definite future success of the firm.
-Devashree Vyas, Volume Zero.