An Oasis In Jerusalem’s Old City
When we started the Old City Ecological Initiative at Beit Prachim (Flowers Gate Compound), the idea was to inject a sense of sustainable development into a property known more for its strategic location being near the Flowers Gate as well as the historic site of the crusaders’ successful breakthrough into Jerusalem in 1099.
As the project continued, it became apparent that there is something unique about the property. Beit Prachim is the only Old City property managed by Ateret Cohanim that has a massive courtyard. Beyond the additions the Ecological Initiative added, the courtyard contains a modern playground surrounded by massive olive and lemon trees as well as plenty of rosemary and lavender. In fact, the property is so shaded and secluded that one can sit in it and almost imagine not being in a city.
When we realized what a magnificent property we had to work with, we changed our goals. Instead of focusing only on greening the property we pivoted to creating a mini urban forest – a place where one can escape to nature without leaving the confines of the Old City.
An Urban Forest Within The Old City
Part of our strategy was to think beyond a typical ecological or green design, but utilize the existing foliage and greenery as part of the project in order to maximize the impact. We added mycelium enriched mulch on the ground which had pieces of cut up trees mixed in – branches and trunks. The containers we used did not over shadow the beautiful trees already there, but filled in the gaps in order to increase the focus on the indigenous grape vines.
The fig and bay leaf trees are planted in containers – keeping their potential size far below the canopy trees above, but allowing them to be part of the urban forest experience. Below the additional trees we added vertical growing containers to better use the small space we had and yet still produce both perennial herbs and seasonal produce.
In applied ecology – forest design is important and key to creating an experience that mimics a naturally occurring forest in nature. The Beit Prachim project is unique in that it uses multiple elements already within the property and blends them with new additions to create a real oasis in the Old City that residents, security personnel, and visitors can enjoy.