Jerusalem was for many years a city in which the planning of public space was haphazard, directed by temporary availability of limited funds, disproportionately aimed at improving tourist areas as opposed to community centers and parks, and notably lacking in creativity from a human-centered design point-of-view. Over the past decade, there has been progress in thinking within the Jerusalem Municipality and community centers as to the possibilities for using public space as a vehicle to create community, scale up economic development, encourage healthy habits among residents, beautify existing centers of activity with a relatively small budget, and give residents an outlet for their creativity and improve their connection to the city.
Fueled, however, by the continued lack of satisfaction among Jerusalem residents with its public space, despite the increase in resources and development, the JLM i-team and the Jerusalem Municipality began a process in 2015 to prioritize creativity, design, placemaking and public participation in planning public space so as to maximize impact, despite budgetary limitations, on local communities.
The JLM i-team began by working to change the operations administration’s 2016 work plan for the renovation of 26 parks, which included hiring landscape architects, artists and industrial designers, finding ways to measure use of the parks before and after renovation, and, most importantly, inviting public participation in the planning process.
The JLM i-team has been working with the Municipality and community centers on neighborhood placemaking projects, which build and connect community through public space. One example, in a commercial center in the outlying Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood, is the use of community involvement in envisioning the improvement of currently unappealing public areas, the result of which is an artistic renovation of a prominent outdoor stairway and traffic circles using the talents of local artists. Three hundred residents were involved in the decision-making process. Other placemaking initiatives set into motion by the JLM i-team and progressing under its guidance are currently taking place in the neighborhoods of Gilo and East Talpiot.
Work on the parks and placemaking initiatives showed the clear need for a unified approach across all city institutions to involve the public in decision-making processes. To this end, the JLM i-team held a major conference in September 2016 with the participation of 160 municipal stakeholders, community council employees and partners to brainstorm content for the creation of a public participation digital handbook. The conference was a tremendous success, both in terms of hundreds of readily applicable insights produced and in harnessing the support and hands-on involvement of dozens of stakeholders from community council workers up to the head of the operations administration. The handbook, designed as a simple, intuitive digital tool, will be available for use in the spring of 2017.
Zaza – Festival on Wheels
Launched in November 2016, Zaza seeks to create a temporary placemaking model that can be replicated in cities all over the world to reach residents across economic and cultural sectors on their home turf. The festival is an initiative that makes quality visual arts, theater, music and science events accessible to a wide audience of Jerusalemites. Using a specially designed “content-mobile,” the festival features pop-up events free of charge in Arab, Ultra-Orthodox and mixed secular and religious Jewish neighborhoods. The festival brings culture and science out of the museums and theatres and into community parks, local commercial centers and public squares. Over the course of two months in 2016, a total of 50 events by Jerusalem-based content providers reached some 5,600 Jerusalem residents from all socioeconomic levels. Following the initiative’s success, Zaza was formally incorporated into the Municipality’s annual schedule and budget. The initiative is supported by the Jerusalem Municipality together with the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee.