Be’er-Sheva’s “Old City” is a complete Ottoman-Turkish city, built by the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century. Some of the restored buildings currently serve as the Carasso Science Park – http://www.sci-park.co.il, the Negev Artists’ House – 08-6273828, and the Negev Museum of Art – http://www.negev-museum.org.il.
Be’er-Sheva is a perfect place to learn about the Art brut (raw concrete or brutalist art) style of architecture, because it is rife with examples, including most of the University Campus buildings, many municipal edifices, some buildings in the Soroka Medical Center complex, as well as: the Be’er-Sheva City Hall; Yad la-Banim House (memorial to the City’s fallen soldiers); Merkaz ha-Negev (the Negev Center); and especially the earliest raw concrete artwork, perched above the city–Andartat ha-Negev (the Negev Brigade Memorial) created by architect/sculptor Dani Karavan in 1968 to commemorate the liberation of Be’er-Sheva from the Egyptian Army on October 21, 1948 and painted by Gideon Shani.
Be’er-Sheva is also the ideal location for studying the history and development of Israeli architecture, because it has prime examples from each decade. In 2008, the Architect’s House Gallery in Jaffa featured an exhibit entitled: “Architecture in Beersheba – Landmarks in Israeliness,” presenting 60 years worth of unique, prize-winning, desert-proof construction by leading Israeli architects. In fact, every year, all the students of architecture in Israel are brought to Be’er-Sheva for a day to see the variety of real examples in their practical contexts.
1951-1957 Two-storey, 4-family houses, built rapidly in the first residential neighborhoods to accomodate the incoming Jewish residents, were poured-concrete structures nicknamed “bate totah“ (lit., cannon houses). Aleph neighborhood (1951-1953) was planned by Architect M. Kohn; Gimel (1952-1953), Bet (1955) & Hey (1956-1957) neighborhoods were designed by M. Cecik.
1959 The “Carpet Settlement,” a successful .(experimental) model for a residential neighborhood providing an alternative public housing solution for thousands of new immigrants, designed in a patio-house grid with covered internal passages, located in the Hey neighborhood. Architects: Yaski, Alexandroni, Zolotov, Havkin & Carmi.
1960 Architect Avraham Yaski completed the “Quarter Kilometer Residence” on stilts, which became the Ye’elim Immigrant Absorption Center in the Hey neighborhood, where many new immigrants lodged upon arrival. It is thought to be the longest building on pillars in the world.
1967 Lupenfeld Gamerman Architects constructed the prize-winning modular “14-storey building” or “drawer-tower” in the Bet neighborhood; it was the first pre-fabricated, stacked-module, high-rise residential building in Israel, mentioned in an article in the New York Times in 1970. By 2003, the tallest residential highrise in the Be’er-Sheva was Rambam Tower 2, with 32 floors, reaching 112 meters. Currently, several taller high-rises are under construction.
1975-1980 Architect Nahum Zolotov, a master of raw concrete architecture, completed the Central Synagogue of the Iraqi-Jewish Community of Be’er-Sheva (in memory of Eliyahu Halachi), nicknamed “the Star Synagogue” or “the Pyramid,“ due to its rare star-of-David shape. It has a central podium, around which the men sit, while the women sit in the 6 points of the star, under stained-glass windows. At night, when lit, a beam of light shoots out of the point at the top of the star.
1985-2008 Architects Sarah & Salo Hershman created the angular, post-modern, clay-colored stone, silver metal and green glass Pais Performing Arts Center, including a large hall that seats 915 people and a small hall that seats 427. It literally shines at night.
1989-1999 The Hall of Justice, designed and built by Barchana Architects, is an elegant and awe-inspiring marble and glass edifice, featuring beautiful woodwork inside the courtrooms. It houses all the secular local and regional courts: criminal, civil, juvenile, labor, family, and small-claims. One-hour tours may be booked in advance; note that no weapons may be brought inside – 08-6470505.
1997-2000 Architects: Ruth Lahav, Tony Rigg & Len Warshaw built the award-winning Government Complex and Mall that covers an area of ca. 18 acres, housing many regional government offices and services, as well as a commercial mall. All under a roof resembling ocean waves and with an adjacent outdoor pedestrian walkway and plaza.
1996-2017 Daring, internationally-acclaimed, award-winning Architect Haim Dotandesigned and built Be’er-Sheva’s environmentally-friendly, 21st century Sami Shamoon College of Engineering Campus, landing the first “Spaceship” in Aleph neighborhood. He also designed and built the University’s Alon Hi-Tech Building, which has a 3-storey, suspended staircase, hung from steel cables, somewhat like a suspension bridge.
2010 The Makleff House, originally built by the Delouya Group in 1963 to house the offices of Bromine Compounds, became the first building in Be’er-Sheva to be converted into a “green“ edifice during renovations.
2013 Be’er-Sheva‘s first “green” mall, the huge (160,000 square meter) red “Ofer Grand Mall“ opened. It was designed and built by the very large Israeli firm of Moore-Yaski-Sivan Architects, and is considered the largest mall in Israel to date.
2017-2020 The Be’er-Sheva Municipal Development Plan is meant to complete the renovation of the old neighborhoods and infrastructures, to fill in empty lots with highrises and public parks, to develop urban ‘green lungs‘ and provide more shade & cover for pedestrians, while not destroying the unique habitats within the Be’er-Sheva metropolitan area. Amen to that! In 2018, the tallest highrise in Be’er-Sheva (32 stories), is still under construction by the “Ahim Um” Construction Company in the new Pelakh 5 area adjacent to the Neveh Ze’ev neighborhood, expected to be habitable in 2019.
Other interesting local architecture
1995 As part of the First International Biennale of Ceramics, held in Be’er-Sheva, artist Israel Hadany created a large outdoor installation entitled: “Oasis environmental sculpture” in the Hadassah Women-J.N.F. Ceramics Park, located just off Rager Boulevard at the northern edge of the city.
2006 A covered 380 meter long pedestrian walkway and a covered 160 meter long bridge across a heavily-trafficked road connect the BGU Campus with the “University” or “North Be’er-Sheva” Train Station. It’s nicknamed the “Mexico Bridge,” because the sponsors were Pedro Dondisch of Mexico City and the Mexican BGU Associates, built by Architect Danny Lazar.
2011 The “Pipes Bridge” is a 110 meter steel, wood and aluminum construction built by Architect Rami Marsh over the old “Mekorot” Company water pipes. One of its two lanes enables pedestrians to walk directly from the “Old City” of Be’er-Sheva to the Neveh Noy neighborhood, located just across the Be’er-Sheva seasonal watercourse. The other lane marks the start of the longest biking trail in Israel (60 kilometers), named in memory of Supreme Court Judge Shneur Zalman Heshin (1903-1959), who was run over while riding his bicycle. This bike path goes all the way to Nitzana via Neot Hovav Industrial Park, the I.D.F. Military Training Base, and Golda [Meir] Park.
2016 The lovely double-helix-style “DNA Footbridge,” designed by Architects Gidi and Tal Bar-Orian, opened for use, spanning the 75m (=246 feet) distance between the “BGU/North Be’er-Sheva” Train Station and the “Gav Yam” High-Tech Park. In 2017, it won the prestigious long-span International Triannual Footbridge Award in Berlin.
2017 The restoration of the Ottoman-Turkish railway bridge (built at the start of the 20th century and partially destroyed in WWI) has been completed. This 200-meter arched stone bridge has been re-purposed and now serves as another pedestrian bridge for crossing the Be’er-Sheva seasonal watercourse, even during the winter’s flood rains.
The International Prep-School for Design & Architecture has opened a branch in Be’er-Sheva – 1-700-508-550.
Since “Our future is inspired by our past” – join the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites – www.shimur.org.il.
For example, we’re currently trying to save the house of the first Jewish Mayor of Be’er-Sheva, David Tuviyahu (located in the Old City) from destruction for historic preservation.