American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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Analysis of the planning region: the stratum of myth which embodies all of the symbolic meanings of the Sea of Galilee environs.
Analysis of the planning region: the stratum of history is of great importance in formation of the look and the identity of the Sea of Galilee space.
Analysis of the planning region: environmental data analysis referring to the current condition.
Project goals and planning alternatives.
Master Plan emphasizing the tourism development in the rear strip and reinforcing the tie between the rear space and the coastline.
Planning strategy - focus on south Ginossar Valley.
Identification of the landscape components which build the place's identity.
Detailed planning: focus on the new space for tourism on the Migdal shore.



The Sea of Galilee Coast: From Line to Space
Ilana Smolyar, Student Affiliate ASLA
Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel
Faculty Advisors: Tal Alon-Mozes, Nava Regev, Anat Sade, and Amir Mueller

"The ideas and concept are just great. The graphics are beautiful. This project displays very strong planning and context. It's a professional and extensive analysis, particularly for an undergraduate."

— 2007 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement:

The project exposes the essence of The Sea of Galilee area that is made up of layers of reality, history, and myth, presenting the space as a multicultural landscape and creating a new place for tourism, which relates to its environment, from both the aspect of its physical existence and its existence in people's consciousness.

Project Narrative:

Project motivation and approach

The project creates a new space for tourism on the Sea of Galilee coast, which refers to its environment, from the aspect of both its physical existence as well as its existence in people’s consciousness. It is in this way that the project strives to create a dialogue between the environment and the water line.

The Sea of Galilee area constitutes a focal point attracting numerous visitors and tourists from Israel and abroad. This is Israel's only lake and its major source of water, as well as constituting an area of great importance in Jewish tradition and one of the most important holy places in Christian tradition. The Sea of Galilee and its environs are located in an open natural landscape, barely changed since the Roman era.

Currently, most of the formally arranged locations for leisure and recreation activities are concentrated along the water, which overloads the shoreline and does not allow the general public to enjoy the wide range of landscape and cultural assets in the area.

The dynamics of the changing water level in the Sea of Galilee, as result of an amount of rains and the pumping, also affect the look of the shoreline and our attitude toward it. The expected difference between the highest and lowest water level is six meters. The significance of the changes in the water line on the shore is expressed in the shifting shoreline, which may be 60-100 meters on the steep shores, and 500-800 meters on shallow shores.

The many archaeological relics in the area, the historical stories linked to the locale and the cultural heritage of the past are an inseparable part of the landscape and significant components in creating its identity. The essence of The Sea of Galilee area is made up of three layers: reality, history and myth, the last of which embodies all of the symbolic meanings of the Sea of Galilee environs. This is why the project's major idea is the exposure of the history and myth layers along with the reality layer for the presentation of the space as a multicultural place. The area contains pilgrimage sites holy to Jews, Christians and Druze. The image of the Sea of Galilee changes from person to person and from culture to culture, therefore, the project creates a place which speaks to a variety of cultures, enabling each culture to draw its own symbolic values from the landscape.

The project proposes a new planning approach to the Sea of Galilee region, an approach which will preserve and emphasize the existing landscape values, so that the space around the Sea of Galilee will be perceived and will function as a single whole cultural landscape (including the Sea) and not only as a shoreline. This will lessen the pressure on the shores and enrich the visitor's experience.

The Project focuses on the Ginossar Valley area on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, with the following goals:

— Creation of a new space for tourism, which refers to its environment, from the aspect of both its physical existence and its existence in people’s consciousness, and not only to the water line.

— Linking the different sites, landscapes, narratives, and traditions about the area to present them as a single cultural landscape unit to create a new tourism experience which is much broader than is currently perceived and not limited only to the shore.

— Since water level variability is part of the Sea of Galilee's uniqueness, this project exposes a wide range of characteristics of the different levels, and uses this to create a range of opportunities for tourism development.

Environmental, cultural and historical data and analysis methods

Because the project exists simultaneously in reality and in the national and religious consciousness, I have examined the space simultaneously from its physical and cognitive aspects. The cognitive space is composed of the visitors’ symbols and images reflecting their perception of the Sea of Galilee. Through questionnaires and interviews with tourists and visitors, I examined the image of the Sea of Galilee in people’s consciousness, the images generated by the Sea, and which space is perceived as the Sea of Galilee. Pilgrim maps of the Holy Land, representations of the Sea of Galilee in Israeli and Christian cultural sources, paintings of New Testament scenes, and other items, were examined. The cognitive maps that Israelis were asked to draw show that they recognize only a very narrow section of the area surrounding the Sea of Galilee. On all of the maps, the most outstanding element is the road around the Sea of Galilee, quite close to the shoreline, which cuts the Sea off from its physical and perceptual environs.

Other material collected include physical data, proposed recreation spots and their location, studying the character of the tourism in the area, and extensive information about the local history and narratives associated with the place. Important historical information included old aerial photographs, old photographs of settlements, orchards and natural landscapes which assisted in the identification of landscape elements that have been preserved, and which hint at its historical heritage. Maps of the conflicts between development schemes and landscape values demonstrate that the western Sea of Galilee area is under a greater threat than its eastern side. In addition, maps of the disturbed areas show that the western side is much more affected by human activity than the eastern side, which still maintains a continuum of open, natural areas.

It is important to note that the southern section of the Ginossar Valley is the only section in the Sea of Galilee environs defined on regional and local level planning schemes as designated for guesthouses, and many development schemes are already applicable to this section. These plans are likely to block off public access to the water, and the construction that may cover the entire shoreline area is likely to damage the unique identity of the Ginossar Valley.

Site selection

After an analysis of the processes of the Sea of Galilee environs, and understanding its elements, the project focuses on the Ginossar Valley area northwest of the Sea. This is agricultural land, currently standing up to the pressures of heavy tourist development. In addition, it contains cultural and landscape values of the highest importance for preservation in order to preserve the identity of the locale. The Ginossar Valley has a variety of cultural meanings which reflect various traditions. In addition to its important role in the history of Israel, the Valley has a very high pilgrimage value, as most of the stories of the miracles and travels of Jesus are associated with this area.

The selected site challenged me to find a proper balance between preservation and development as well as the opportunity to create an emotional tie between people and locale through integrating culture-religious-nature-landscape into one creative work.

Planning strategy

The understanding that it is impossible to keep pursuing the water level and base the development of lodging and recreation facilities on the water line only, along with the need to bridge the gap between the image of the Sea of Galilee and the actual place, led me to conclude that the project should expand the area designated for tourism and recreation without limiting it primarily to the shore area, as is the current situation. The project encourages development of a wide range of lodging and recreation facilities based on the wide variety of landscape and historical assets existing in the environs of the Sea of Galilee.

Based on all of the conclusions arising from the analysis, I proposed two development alternatives for the entire western side of the Sea of Galilee, in which the Ginossar Valley is located. Planning the chosen section would be a direct result of a holistic look at the entire region. The alternative of theme spaces emphasizes the cultural identity of the various spaces through exposure of the existing cultural and religious values connected to the site. This option is based on the creation of very close ties between the sites belonging to the same theme space so that it is perceived in people's consciousness as an entire entity and as place. The second option, in contrast, emphasizes the linear spaces perpendicular to the Sea of Galilee, which embody a range of natural and landscape values. These spaces will function as recreation attractions to people from various cultures, and will act as the pathway for activity or an attractive hike connecting the guesthouses located in the rear and the Sea.

Based on the two options, I proposed a Master Plan for the northwest Sea of Galilee area in the center of which lies the Ginossar Valley. The plan emphasizes the tourism development in the rear strip and reinforces the tie between the rear space and the coastline. In like manner, the design proposes the “Gospel Trail” to link the spaces, interlacing values of culture, religion, nature and landscape all along its length.

In future planning schemes, the entire Migdal coastline area is designated for hotels in such a way as to disperse the construction in an almost uniform way across the entire area. Economic activities are indeed likely to conserve the agricultural landscape, and therefore, the project proposes a development scheme which integrates tourism development within the currently existing agricultural space by building in concentrated areas and leaving more extensive open spaces. In addition, integration of a variety of open spaces in the new fabric will attract vacationers.

Project design

The current project attempts to reinforce the sense of place arising from the tension between myth and reality through the creation of a dialogue between the landscape components that hint at the myth and the past of the Sea of Galilee and the new fabric. The design of the space as a weave of landscapes, historical and recreation sites integrated with various traffic axes within the space, each emphasizing a different asset of the Sea of Galilee - these are the tools creating an experience of place.

In addition to the agricultural landscape with its fruit gardens, three components of the landscape hinting at the heritage of the past and which provided the foundation for the project design are the Nun Spring, used to irrigate the Valley in the past; the alle` of Washingtonia palms dating from the 1920s; and the Villa Melchett and its historical garden. These are the components that are building the locale’s identity, therefore, serving as anchors in the spatial planning, and receiving a renewed function. Thus also the spring and Villa Melchett constitute two points of interest between which the new fabric is built. The pedestrian link between the rear space and the coastline takes place along the axis of the Nun Creek. The project proposes to raise the highway crossing the Valley to enable continuity of the fabric and access to the shoreline on the natural axis. The additional design principles are the reinforcement of the axes perpendicular to the water line and emphasizing them in a different way, and the designing of the areas between the axes as the connecting fabric.

The floating pier beginning at the maximum water level (-208.9m.) and ending at the minimum water level (-215.00m.) illustrates the dramatic nature of the change in water level. Together with the shoreline boardwalk, it constitutes a kind of monument to those water levels, which have become an Israeli national myth. In the Christian narrative, it was here that Jesus walked on water in the area between Magdala and Capernaum. The walking onto the floating pier is a simile for walking on water, and is likely to be a near-mystical experience for pilgrims visiting Israel on a tour in the footsteps of Jesus.


Because the Sea of Galilee region cuts across the areas of several different local and regional councils, each of which wishes to handle the territory within its own jurisdiction, there is a need to assimilate holistic analysis and approach methods on the level of an overall national outline scheme for the coastline. The Migdal Municipality Local Council and private developers are most likely to be interested in specific planning for the coastline, based on an understanding of the economic advantage that such a project would generate.

The Migdal region is only one example of implementation of the planning approach to the Sea of Galilee coast. Regional planning will create an outline of development areas to the rear of the water line and the unique points for the designer’s intervention, which will work together to create a unique space for tourism integrating culture, religion, nature and landscape.



The space as a web of various traffic axes based on the landscape elements which hint at its historical heritage.
The intersection of the traffic axes constitutes the unique focal point within this space.
The Migdal shore: aerial view of the project area.
Focus on the project's central axis - the tourist boardwalk leading to the Sea of Galilee.
Human-water encounter - the mile long floating pier which illustrates the dramatic nature of the change in water level and constitutes a simile for walking on the water.
The floating pier as reflection of the Christian myth - providing a near-mystical experience of walking on the water.
Symbolic end of the pier.
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