The Twelfth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2010
Berkeley Prize 2010




The initiative to create a national competition on the subject of conservation and re-purpose of Israel's disintegrating water towers has come at the right time, as reflected in the competition results and the interest it has sparked.

The inherent characteristics of the water towers in the country's landscape and the sweep of nostalgia in the general public, combined with the growing awareness in Israel to conservation, created the perfect atmosphere for architects as well as the general public to look at the water towers as potential for revival, rather than an object which belongs to the past.

The jury examined the entries for nearly 40 works, searching for the right balance between several values which sometimes collide: local community needs, daring originality, sensitivity to the existing structure and above all, in-depth research.

The winning proposals were generally those which have dealt with the surrounding urban tissue surrounding the towers, and successfully set the tower back into the centre with respect to its past.

The competition was open in two categories – students and young architects, a decision which brought more submittals, and showed that experienced planners have greater sensitivity to the existing environment, as well as a higher level of research and presentation abilities. On the concept side, students were mostly more original and even revolutionary, bringing ideas which spark the imagination in terms of how to take a fresh look at an existing tower and what can become of it, in a contemporary manner.

As expressed by the jury members, many of the works dealt more with the landmark, with the symbol of a water tower rather than with the water tower itself, in its physical, material evidence, which is old and fragile, having been built decades ago in reinforced concrete. An important realization was that education to conservation in Israel is lacking, resulting in projects which are sometimes alienated from their own history, and therefore from their immediate environment.

On the shoulders of many good people, this project has grown beyond any expectation and attracted architects, designers, nostalgia-lovers, photographers, conservation activists, government representatives, municipal officials, national newspapers, television and websites, and most importantly the general public.

The peak of the project was the exhibition, closing on 1.1.2011, a good date to end this portion of the project and begin the next step – establishing an archive of the hundreds of photos and tens of documentation files gathered in the past months, and, with the help of the Israeli Society for Preservation of Heritage Sites, pushing forward the actual realization of the concept to re-use the water towers and bring them back to the public.

This of course is dependent on local municipalities and water corporations, but thanks to the buzz created by the exhibition – I am optimistic. Since the first days of the competition I said to myself – if even one of the water towers receives a new function and returns to serve the community as a place to meet, relax or communicate – I have done my share.

I would like to thank the BERKELEY PRIZE for giving me a chance to make a change.

Robert Ungar


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Robert Ungar, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Israel
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