Designs on Tel Aviv's skyline

Rachel Feller Photo: Eyal Izhar

MYS Architects senior partner Rachel Feller, designer of many of the city's towers, tells "Globes" about her architectural philosophy.

Rachel Feller, senior partner at Israeli firm MYS Architects, which has designed many of the country's high-rise residential buildings including Akirov Towers and Yoo towers, is an enthusiastic advocate of mixed-use buildings. At the Hassan Arafa neighborhood in Tel Aviv, on the corner of Yitzhak Sadeh and Hamasger Streets, she has designed the Alpha Building.

With a breathtaking view of the city, sea and surrounding a large open park, the Alpha Building will be a mixed-use 30-floor high-rise and will be one of 14 towers in this large complex, five of which (four office towers and the Alpha project) have been designed by Feller. The towers will rejuvenate this area west of the Ayalon Highway, which was formerly a ramshackle neighborhood of workshops and garages.

Being part of the Yitzak Sadeh (Hassan Arafa) neighborhood, this project is planned to include different types of residential units, a 200- room urban hotel as well as commercial and public areas including a kindergarten, where all systems coexist in sync with all uses.

She says that  Alpha is an extreme example of mixed use.  "There is mixed-use at the neighborhood level and at the building level. In the past decade there have been no few mixed-use buildings while in Tel Aviv's wholesale market (where Feller designed residential towers), the mixed-use is at the neighborhood level."

What is the advantage of mixed use in a building?

"It creates a very active building. People don't want a building that is not alive while just nearby is a building with a lot of action. But this is a design challenge. One of the design challenges is to provide a solution for different publics in the same building and to separate the different entrances in terms of pedestrians and in terms of movement. How to reach the building from the parking area requires thought. When we talk about a hotel and residential, the characteristics are more similar and it allows the tenants to enjoy the hotel's services - laundering services, a fitness room, spa and that provides an experience for the building. It doesn't exist much around the world but there are beginning of this, which I have seen in New York and in East Asia."

On the other hand, if we take for example the Yitzhak Sadeh neighborhood, there the hotels are more for business with short-term users and for that short period they want to mix with local people."

For example, there is also the Sarona Hotel in the Sarona neighborhood , which Feller also designed. The hotel will include 900 rooms in three hotels in one tower: a deluxe hotel, a suite hotel and a standard hotel. "It's the largest hotel project in the country," Feller said, explaining that it provided her with one of the biggest and most complex challenges she has ever faced because of the shape of the lot, which required maximum use of its space.

She added that Menachem Begin Street in its entirety from north to south (formerly Petah Tikva Road and running parallel immediately west of the Ayalon Highway) is characterized by mixed-use buildings: from the Sarona Hotel in the south to the Egged Tower (also designed by Heller), the Tel Aviv Wholesale Market neighborhood and the Yitzhak Sadeh neighborhood. All these are on a main artery where the light railway will run. There is today awareness that we have to look differently at public spaces not only as areas for pedestrians and drivers but with the new generation also bicycles and scooters.

Feller continues, "The zoning situation created in effect areas that were cut off from each other while today mixed-use creates more life and all within walking distance. This is a situation born of necessity because of the shortage of land and space and generally speaking this is a kind of test case: what will be created, how these things will work, what type of lifestyle we will see and what characteristics will it have. When we built Akirov and Yoo, the area was completely cut off from the city itself, while today we are already planning an area that is part of the urban space."

"At night it is magical"

Feller is responsible for designing most of the high-rise buildings in Tel Aviv. In addition to Akirov and Yoo, the list of high-rises she designed includes the Azrieli Center, Ha'Zeirim Towers, Bereshit in Bavli, Savionei Ramat Gan, Frishman 46, Metropolitin Tel Aviv, and Suzuki Tower. Hotels she has designed include Sarona Hotel, West Hotel, and outside of Tel Aviv Upper West in Rishon Lezion and Hamachtesh in Givatayim.

Don't you think that high-rises make a city ugly?

"There are those that think it is ugly but I think that it gives a city the Manhattan look. There is something dynamic and un-designed about this. At night it looks magical. Partly beautiful and partly not beautiful but it is interesting."

In the Wholesale Market, Feller designed Gindi-LOVE, a clover-shaped building with 385 housing units. On each of the 12 floors there are units of different sizes. In the Kikar Medina project, she has designed a spiral-shaped building and in the Beit Lessing project, she has preserved the historic building that was originally designed by the late Avraham Yasky, the founder of MYS.

Feller stressed, "This is a very special project. It's a very small tower with just four apartments on each floor and even three on some floors. It's a boutique building compared with others with a structure that has been carefully designed. The disadvantage of needing to link an historic building with the new building has produced space that benefits the tenants."

What lifestyle does living in high-rises dictate?

"There is an assumption that towers create alienation. I actually think that they create community life because there are a large number of apartments, which creates a fabric of reciprocal relations between them. I also see that the tenants want public areas in which they can all meet. Generally, it requires work which is a little different. In one of the buildings, for example, there was a request to create an area for business meetings: a place where business meetings could be held before going home so that you can protect privacy and not bother the rest of the family - but be in your own building."

"Not long ago, I visited friends who had moved to a building with 10 housing units in Rosh Ha'ayin of all places, which is very cut off like all the new towns. In such neighborhoods there are no major roads but we want to create an urban environment. Because there are no stores nearby, the building has created a WhatsApp group and they have built a community life for themselves."

Aren't high-rises in Tel Aviv designed for the very particular type of population that can afford them?

"That was truer ten years ago but today there are more homes and the apartments are smaller and that has caused a breakthrough. Tel Aviv is leading the way. You are seeing high-rises today even in urban renewal neighborhoods like Neve Sharet. And in the city center, within Tel Aviv itself, there is a distinction made between the size of the apartment and the number of apartments per tower, in order to provide accessibility for additional populations."

So you don't accept the charge that Tel Aviv is only for the rich?

"There is a reduction in the number of people wanting to live in the city and for whom it is important but for young people the city trumps everything else."

Is there a city that from your point of view is a model of correct planning?

"New York is an amazing city both because its urban character has been preserved and its intensity. It is a city that is alive and kicking and knows how to keep its charm. It has something from the past and its history and knows how to create a type of vibe even in its office districts and squares. That doesn't exist in Paris or Berlin.

Do you yourself live in a high-rise?

"I live in a house in Givatayim but my dream is to return to the city. I love towers and its part of my endeavors."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 11, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019 .

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Rachel Feller Photo: Eyal Izhar
Rachel Feller Photo: Eyal Izhar
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