Underground Jerusalem

Malki Kessler
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Department of Architecture, Jerusalem

Project idea

A dialogue between the reality of living in underground parking garages and an advanced thinking of quality living in the subterranean, using the Romema neighborhood as a case study.

Project description

Looking at the current reality of living in underground parking garages, the project offers prospective thinking on quality residential solution in the subterranean area of Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood.

Jerusalem, 2018. Hundreds of illegal apartments are popping up all over the city – a temporary fix for couples who want to live near their parents. While this may look like a poor solution, it is in fact an appropriate answer to land shortage and urban crowding, which calls for contemporary creativity by using new technologies.

Underground Jerusalem, proposed in this project, already lives and breathes underground. Now, it is up to us to decide how we want to address it. This project does not wish to go against the phenomenon, but rather to leverage it in an intelligent manner that enables quality of life.

Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood is perhaps the most extreme example of this phenomenon. It is currently undergoing a rezoning from an industrial into a residential neighborhood. Due to population growth, the neighborhood suffers from a severe shortage of public space and public institutions.

This project offers an underground urban space (from Yirmiyahu–Shamgar junction to Wadi Romema), by integrating the existing residential layout in a newly multi-purpose layout of an inner street containing residential, commercial, and public spaces. The areas where its interface merges with the existing street level serve as significant public open spaces. At the residential units level, it offers a design of an underground system capable of absorbing light and air by using mirrors, water pools, and optical fibers.

Originating in a problem that challenges us, the project addresses a not so distant future. If we will be able to use autonomous cars and robots, what stops us from taking advantage of the most accessible resource we have – the earth?

Technical information

1. Current Situation:
The Romema neighborhood, which has mostly ultra-Orthodox jewish residents is being rezoned from industrial to residential and thousands of additional housing units are being built.
The infrastructure of the neighborhood is not suited to the demographic changes, and a severe shortage of public spaces and public institutions is created.
Due to the high cost of living combined with low use of cars, underground parking garages are converted into residential floors - housing young couples during the first years of their marriage. These residents are satisfied with the temporary solution that allows them to live in the city center for a short period.

2. Strategy/Vision:
This project offers an underground urban space that begins at the "Yirmiyahu-Shamgar" junction and ends in Wadi Romema, by integrating the existing residential layout in a newly multi-purpose layout of an underground street containing residential, commercial and multi-purpose public spaces. The areas where its interface merges with the existing street level serve as entrances and significant public open spaces. The project also proposes to slightly alter the path of the future green line of the light rail so it passes through the underground street’s main square.

3. Technological Solutions:
Light shafts:
1. Mirrors reflection- sunrays converge on a concave mirror that absorbs them during the daytime. The angle of reflection is equal to the angle of impact, so the light descends in the shafts using the mirror’s reflection.
2. Double layered ceilings for infrastructure- Optic fibers for transferring light. (Light fixtures in the ceiling transmit sunlight during the day, and artificial light at night). Air- a fresh airflow system in the ceilings and in the horizontal and vertical ventilation shafts.
3. Water pools on the ground are used as a central light source by absorbing sunlight and passing it down.
4. Wells of light.
5. Underground vertical gardening is used to create natural oxygen.
6. The temperature underground is 20 degrees all year round (average temperature +4)


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