The “Ofel” Promenade & The Old City Observation Points

Jerusalem - Israel

1991-2000

In 1990 we prepared for the Municipality of Jerusalem the master plan for the Mount of Olives - from the Eastern Wall of the Old City to the Ridge of the Mountain. The total area of the plan was 106 hectares, slightly larger than the Old City. Its main objectives were to preserve the biblical landscapes of the mountain facing the Old City and to allow public access to this unique part of Jerusalem. Until 1990 it was barely possible to access the Mount of Olives and there was no location from which to observe the Old City from the East. A series of promenades and belvederes have been planned and built: 1. Lion's Gate - St. Stephen's Gate - a segment of the Via Dolorosa and the ascent to the Gate.  2. Absalom's Monument Observation Point below the highest part of the Old City Wall.  3. The Ofel Promenade below the Golden Gate facing the Kidron Valley and the Mountain.  4. The Gethsemane Square and Jericho Road Promenade.  5. The Cohanim Ascent to the mountain and, finally.  6. The Mount of Olives - three observation theaters overlooking the Old City.

This is an ongoing project. It has continued intermittently for more than 20 years and the work is still progressing connecting the mountain with the Hebrew University and up the hill from Gethsemane. There are some advantages to the slow development of such a project: It allows for contemplation and reevaluation of the spiritual and visual "treasures" of this unique space and for careful enhancement of the experience of the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley.  The principles of the plan are as follows: 

1. The new additions to the valley and mountain participate in a dialogue with the monuments of this defined space: The Square in front of All Nation's Cathedral forms an axis with the Golden Gate across the valley. Each of the 3 seating areas on the Upper Promenade faces a different segment of the Old City's Panoramic setting: The Al Aqsa Mosque above the "Kotel"; the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; The Golden Gate and St. Stephen's Gate.

2. The architectural elements combine the light transparency of the metal work with the heavy agelessness of the stone work. The benches are heavy stone blocks (approx. 200 kg) and presumably will remain in place for some time.

3. The Promenades and Observation Points are placed in strategic locations to expose views in all directions. The visual complexity of this sacred space required a balanced distribution of attention to the many varied focal points on this mountain.

4. The system of paths is intended to serve the large groups of persons using this space  - residents, tourists, pilgrims.

5. An open planning process was structured in order to allow collaboration with other architects (such as  S. Ahronson).

6. The Observation Points focus attention on the major monuments of Ancient Jerusalem.