|The proposed Peace Park will be located at the "Three Bridges" Site, a historical crossing point on the now-near-dry Jordan River (shown in an aerial view).
Architecture students helping
to design Mideast Peace Park
Faculty and students from Yale School of Architecture have teamed up with
their Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli counterparts to create a vision for
the first cross-border Peace Park to be established in the Middle East.
On May 12, the joint teams visited the location of the proposed park, about
six miles south of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, at the confluence
of the Yarmouk and Jordan Rivers. The park area will include the former Rotenberg
hydroelectric power station and the “Three Bridges” Site, a historical
crossing point of the River Jordan, where a 2,000-year-old Roman bridge, an
Ottoman Railway bridge and a British Mandate road bridge still span the River
No person, train or vehicle has crossed the river at this site since the 1948
The idea for the park was conceived by Munqeth Mehyar, the Jordanian director
of Friends of the Earth Middle East, a unique Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian
organization for peace and the environment.
Speaking before the gathering, Mehyar said, “Sixty years after the hydroelectric
power plant was destroyed in the 1948 war, almost to the day, a historic event
designed to help advance a cross-border peace park on both banks of the River
Jordan will take place.
“The goal of the event,” he noted, “is to develop ideas on
how to recreate a wetland from the dry lake bed into a bird sanctuary, convert
the old power station into a visitor’s center, the old workers’ homes
into eco-lodges and renovate the bridges so they can be used again.”
Alan Plattus, professor of architecture and urban planning at Yale, is director
of the project, and Andrei Harwell, a critic at the School of Architecture,
is the project manager. The two led a charrette — a four-day design
event — where participants produced an array of ideas and designs as
to how the area could be revitalized. The group included faculty and students
selected by the Yale Urban Design Workshop, and architects and students from
Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Plattus, who heads the Yale Urban
Design Workshop in New Haven, has many years of experience hosting charrettes
and guiding disparate groups with a variety of interests toward a consensus
on development plans in their communities.
This event follows the completion by Friends of the Earth Middle East
of a $110,000 feasibility study of the park.
| The park will encompass the abandoned Rotenberg hydroelectric power station.
“The park,” said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of Friends
of the Earth Middle East and a 2007 Yale World Fellow, “has the support
of the local Jordanian and Israeli authorities as it is designed not only as
the first step towards the rehabilitation of the near-dry River Jordan but as
a means to generate much needed income for the communities on both sides of the
The finished project will be a trans-boundary protected area straddling the
international border between Israel and Jordan. The cross-border park is
based on an existing arrangement, following the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty,
that allows Israelis to enter an area in Jordan called the “Peace Island” without
the need for a visa or passport.
“The proposed park expands the area of special crossing arrangement to
include also the Israeli side of the river bank and for Jordanians to cross onto
the Israeli side, allowing for the full potential of the site to be utilized,” added
President Richard C. Levin said, “We are pleased that Yale will take
a leadership role in this inspiring endeavor. The project reflects Yale’s
commitment to support sustainable development at every level and to promote
creative dialog across cultural and geographical borders.”
Plattus, speaking on behalf of the participating Yale faculty and students,
said: “We are excited to be part of this unprecedented initiative, and
to explore the ways in which design can be a positive force not only in environmental
renewal and sustainability, but also in the building of collaborative relationships
among peoples with a common history and environment exemplified by the Jordan
The charrette itself was held both on the Peace Island site and at a nearby
site in Jordan. The project design will be presented in Amman and Jerusalem
in the upcoming week.
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