Not As It Looks

For ten years it’s been hiding under a green hill. Modest on the outside, but complex and sophisticated within. Did you know that this green mound is actually a building? The Visitors Pavilion at Ramat Hanadiv is celebrating a decade since its establishment and we invite you to discover what hides behind it

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Most of us are familiar with the sight of a house on a hill, but a hill that is actually a house is a much rarer sight. Architecture is an ancient profession and has been defined by artists many times as a higher art. Around the world, the external appearance of many buildings reveals the artistic movement and the culture of the time and place of its construction. The Visitors Pavilion at Ramat Hanadiv behaves in the opposite way. This building wants to remain unseen. And it is this very concealment that reveals its cultural uniqueness and the wind of time.

Since its establishment many decades ago, Ramat Hanadiv has been in a process of constant development and never stands still. Tourism and environmental activity have been expanded and strengthened and the number of visitors to the site continues to increase. With the expansion there arose a need to establish a visitor center to provide content and convenience for the many visitors that reach it.

However, there was a catch – what is an environmental organization supposed to do when the building that it wants to establish is going to compromise its natural areas? How do we add without destroying what we already have?

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Inspiration for solving the problem actually came from the natural world. If animals are clever enough to camouflage themselves for defense, let’s learn from them and camouflage ourselves to conserve nature.

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Let’s plan a building in disguise that will blend into its environment. Because in nature, every day is a holiday. This may sound simple, but it was a complex process.

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Present, But Invisible

From your last visit you surely remember that to get to the Memorial Gardens from the parking lot, you passed through a green hill, but how many of you noticed that this is actually a building in a green costume? It looks like a green hill covered with soil and vegetation and it blends into the existing landscape, connecting the Park and the Gardens. The north-facing side, facing the Gardens, is covered with plants that blend into the Garden vegetation, while the south-facing side, facing the Nature Park, is covered with local native vegetation.

Ada Karmi Melamede & Co. Architects were responsible for planning the building, which is the first building in Israel to receive a ‘green building’ Standards Association stamp.

Planning and construction of the building focused on saving energy and minimizing the impact on the environment, and thus maintained sustainability principles, which are some of the fundamental principles at Ramat Hanadiv. The rationale that guided construction of the Visitors Pavilion was to reduce the impact on the landscape and to reuse resources. However, as in all construction, there was a need for extensive use of materials on one hand, and production of copious quantities of waste on the other. So what did we do?

Each amount of rock or soil that was quarried when preparing the site for construction was crushed and used as raw material for infrastructure, parking and paths around the building. The top layer of soil was return to the building’s roof, and after being mixed with compost became fertile soil in which shrubs and trees were planted to create a green roof for the building. To make things clear we’ll say that during the 3 years of construction we filled only 20 trucks with non-crushable material; the amount of material that accumulates during one week at a regular construction site of similar size. We reused all the other materials. We installed a geothermal air conditioning system in the building to save energy, and all the sewage flows from the building to a wastewater purification center at Ramat Hanadiv.

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What do you think wild boars do when some of their natural area becomes a Visitors Pavilion? They visit it of course. Especially when the building blends in and looks just like a part of nature.

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Green, well-lit and aerated

Covering the roof with soil provides thermal insulation, facilitates regulation of the ambient temperature inside the building and contributes to saving energy. The trees and shrubs planted on the roof contribute to reducing air pollution and to integration of the building with the environment. Thought was also given to electricity consumption for lighting and air condition during the planning process – the building’s interior is lit up by daylight due to the unique structure of its roof. The two parts of the roof were connected along their entire length by a glass sky light, through which daylight penetrates, lighting up the long corridors of the building with ‘soft’ light.

A geothermal air-conditioning system was installed in the building, contributing to energy saving. To cool down the Visitors Pavilion, water flows from it in pipes that lead down shafts that were drilled into the soil to a depth of 40 m. In the depths of the soil the water cools quickly to the soil temperature and flows back to the building, thus cooling the air that flows into the spaces of the Visitors Pavilion.

Nature’s approval

What do you think wild boars do when some of their natural area becomes a Visitors Pavilion? They visit it of course.

Especially when the building blends in and looks just like a part of nature. When the Visitors Pavilion was built, they climbed onto the building and rooted in the soil covering it, looking for treasures such as bulbs, worms and spiders. This was the most authentic seal of approval that we could wish for – proof that the building blends into nature, but hey, boars, you’re destroying our rooftop garden!

To solve this new problem, the building was surrounded by a low electrical fence. Don’t worry, the electric intensity of the fence is regulated so that it deters the boars, but doesn’t cause them pain. Other visitors that were taken in by the disguise were the gazelles who live in the park; they do not harm the garden and manage to skip elegantly over it.

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What can we offer you?

The Visitors Pavilion is just that – intended for you, the visitors. First of all, passing through it allows you to gently step out from your busy daily routine into the magical atmosphere of the Gardens.

The Visitors Pavilion offers you a concept store where you can obtain advice on the range of options for your visit here; temporary exhibitions; a video for the whole family that tells the story of Ramat Hanadiv and the personal story of Baron Rothschild; an auditorium and classrooms for organized groups; Mataim restaurant that offers dairy meals in a unique atmosphere; a kiosk; a playground for children and more.

So the next time you visit the Gardens, pay special attention to the Visitors Pavilion, and discover its beauty inside and out. Inspiration is guaranteed.

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