Ein Bokek Public Beach
This project transcended its initial parameters as an engineering solution to the threat of rising sea levels to create a revolution in the nature, structure and accessibility of the public spaces of the Dead Sea beachfront and adjacent tourist complex. The design of the promenade, which sits between the mountains and the sea, responds to the severe climatic challenges of the area, while the minimalist design language complements the stark beauty of the desert environment and creates a signature character for this unique tourist destination.
It is widely known that sea levels in the northern portion of the Dead Sea are dropping drastically each year as a result of the tapping of the sea’s main water source, the Jordan River, for agricultural irrigation.
However, the southern portion of the sea, which consists of artificial pools managed for the industrial extraction of minerals, is actually rising every year. This rising water level, along with the highly corrosive nature of the water, poses a risk to the hotel complex and beachfront, one of the most important touristic areas in the country. In response to this threat, a national plan was issued which prescribes a range of solutions, including fixing the final sea level through the construction of an artificial embankment before dredging will have to commence, and raising of the beaches accordingly. The Ein Bokek Public Beach and Sea Promenade Project arises from a general masterplan for the entire 10-kilometer-long beachfront of the Ein Bokek tourism area, sections of which are under development by a number of offices.
Though initiated as a project confined to a narrow strip along the new embankment and rising beach, the process of site analysis called attention to the wide adjoining areas between the main boulevard of the hotel complex and the seafront. We convinced the client of the value of renovating the entire stretch of open area between the hotels and the sea in order to create an integrating, continuous public space connecting the main axis of hotels with the raised and renovated beach and new promenade along the seashore. The resulting design strategy organizes the project as a series of activity zones moving outwards from the sea: beach, promenade, beach park, parking, and finally the main axis of hotels and transport, all of which are framed by the striking desert cliffs.
The beach zone penetrates into the sea itself with accessible decks to bring bathers into the water. A series of large shade structures protects visitors from the average summer temperatures of 40 degrees, providing large islands of continuous shade designed for families and to encourage groups and interactions between the diverse visitors. The white of the shade sails offsets the warm colors of the desert landscape and the brilliant blues of the sea, and the silhouette of the structures creates a dialogue with the Jordanian Hills at the horizon.
These large shaded areas are connected to the promenade by accessible paths, and these trails become the design backbone of the beach along which the main functions are organized: open showers, washing and changing facilities, lifeguard shelters, and accessible sea-bathing facilities. The concentration of these installations enables the preservation of open views and a visual quiet along the beach and promenade.
Planning in the Dead Sea area poses many climatic and engineering challenges: extreme corrosion due to the salinity of the ground and water, extreme temperatures, and the danger of sinkholes. The introduction of fresh water into this environment causes further challenges, as it can dissolve salt layers within the ground and lead to structural instabilities. Therefore, all freshwater facilities on the beach are carefully designed. For example, the beach showers are hermetically separated from the beach surface so as not to interfere with salt accumulations from the groundwater.
The beach park is planted with a grid of date palms which evoke the typical agricultural groves of the Dead Sea area and which provide a strong vertical architecture and sense of scale. The selection of the palm as the primary species was based on its robustness in the face of the difficult planting conditions of the desert coast: soil salinity, proximity to seawater, irrigation with treated effluent, and extreme climate. The beach park includes lawn for picnicking families, as well as desert plantings of both native and horticultural species, and is watered with treated wastewater from the hotels.
Today, the new, continuous sea promenade and its beaches have created a revolution in the breadth, nature, and language of public spaces in the Dead Sea tourism complex. The project now allows the public greater and more complete access to the coast and celebrates the rare resource that is the Dead Sea, while inviting all segments of the population to enjoy the beach and desert landscape, and to converge and commingle in the shade.
Authors: Shlomo Aronson Architects : Barbara Aronson, Ittai Aronson, Elia Shoshany, Daniel Shorer, Svetlana Sirota, Ayelet Ben David. Irrigation: Tova Levinov
Photo Credit: Barbara Aronson