MIU's Third Annual International Conference on Israeli Urbanism

was held in Bat-Yam’s Auditorium on May 28-29, 2008

The conference dealt with the importance of high density in urban environments as an instigator of urban prosperity and quality of life

 

Israel has 7.3 million residents, and is currently ranked as the 9th densest country in the world. 92% of the population lives in 256 cities, while the rest inhabit about 800 rural settlements scattered throughout the country. Israel also has one of the lowest rates in the world of open space for recreation and agriculture per resident. Currently about 3 million people in Israel  live in low to moderate density in the Metropolitan Area of Tel-Aviv, while 4 million live in over 230 settlements which often lack sufficient density to allow for adequate services and urban life. This leads to municipal neglect and the propensity of stronger population leaving them to suburban developments, leaving these towns and settlements without opportunities.

 

The conference aim: By 2030 Israel will have 11.5 million residents, 10 million of which will be living in cities. The character of these cities will be the character of the country. MIU – The Movement for Israeli Urbanism would like to demonstrate that these cities can become good places to live in. For this purpose we have gathered MIU members, Israeli planning authorities and municipal officials, urban planners and private entrepreneurs for a collaborative examination of the following questions in round table discussions, workshops and lectures: how can natural growth be used in making existing cities denser? How can issues such as transportation and parking, open spaces, mixed uses and urban management be addressed so as to create dense, intensive, flourishing cities with a high quality of life? We chose the city of Bat-Yam as a venue, a city which is the second densest in Israel, and which is utilizing its density as a lever for prosperity.

 

The conference was held with the participation of the City of Bat-Yam, The Ministry of Construction and Housing, The Ministry of Interior, The Ministry of Environmental Protection and The Israel Land Administration, with the kind sponsorships of Mr. Bruce Mintzer -Developer, Ashdar Construction, Africa Israel Residences, The Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, P.G.L Transportation Engineering and Planning and Parkomat.

 

The conference was attended by about 250 participants – architects, city engineers, urban planners, public administrators, local authority employees and students of architecture and urban planning.

At the core of the conference were five roundtable workshops that were held throughout the two days of the conference. These workshops dealt with the following issues: how to create an urban quality of life, transportation infrastructure, allowing for mixed uses, building for diverse populations, the creation of open spaces and public buildings in dense cities.

 

Roughly 150 participants of various positions and professions took an active part in these workshops.

§         The workshops received very positive reviews from the participants in a written feedback, filled by them at the end of the conference.

§         The products of these workshops, showed in the closing session of the conference, will be used in writing a position paper and guidelines for "Making Israeli Cities Denser and Better".

 

During the conference there were lectures and master classes by three guests from abroad:

Mr. James Hulme, Director of Public Relations, Princes Foundation for the Built Environment, London, England

Mr. Deependra Prashad, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and Director of INTBAU-India

Mr. Stephan Kuhn, Director, Urban Governance, ICLEI, Germany

 

During the conference an exhibition was held, showing 31 projects by about 90 students of architecture who participated in an urban design competition for areas within the city of Bat-Yam. The city of Bat-Yam awarded six prizes - three winning projects and three commendable projects. Visitors to the conference selected the "people's choice" award given by MIU, courtesy of Mr. Bruce Mintzer.

 

The conference received wide coverage in the media: twelve articles in printed national media, five items and interviews on the radio, articles and items in four leading web sites, dozens of mentions in leading blogs and two television appearances prior to the conference.

 

Two weeks after the conference MIU's chairman, Irit Solzi, appeared in the television show "politics" on prime time, which is a good indicator of our success in raising awareness and beginning a public debate of urban density.

 

For more information about the conference plan and pictures from the conference:

http://www.miu.org.il/MIU_v4/docs_activities/Conference%202008/index.html