Kohav Hatsafon School
Evolution Under Constraints
Looking at "Kohav Hatsafon" school, with its white walls, its inner yard enclosed by a colorful façade, and its design - inspired by the International Style and "Garden City" plan - it's difficult, nearly impossible to imagine that the design we are so proud of was preceded by three different plans, all three could have matured into a finished building, when each time the client – The City of Tel Aviv – had created a plot twist, and the plan had to be changed and thus evolved into the building you see today.
The story starts with a childhood memory. Architect Ori Halevy who managed the planning team, remembers his first day in Brenner School, Herzeliya, with its gloomy hallways all too well. When he started working on a design for a new school in Kohav Hatsafon neighborhood in Tel Aviv, Halevy tells: "It was important for me to create a positive experience for the children. I wanted a building that is much more that the simple, dull buildings with their standard cross section of two floors, classes and hallway, without passive airing, or natural light and without direct access to a play yard".
The wish to create a natural, protected and embracing atmosphere for the young children has led us to focus on creating easy access to an inner yard. The first model we tested was the inner courtyard model, which echoes the plans of ancient universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and even old monasteries where a colonnade leads to an inner courtyard. On further thought, as the plot allowed for it, we came up with a plan that had two ground floors. The lower floor with the public functions faces outwards, whereas the classes are located on the second floor with direct access to an inner courtyard – a green island in the urban neighborhood. This is how we reached the first model that we fondly named "The Avocado Model" – a rounded building, not overly sophisticated nor expensive, with two separate play yards for the younger and older children.
However, Tel Aviv Municipality didn't want to take on any planning risks and the rounded building was considered too unorthodox for a school building. And so, we had to say goodbye to Avocado Model.
Back to the drawing board, we have replaced the Avocado program with a plan we called "Tower and Stockade". A building with a humble slanted roof, straight side walls an easier plan to digest, so we thought. The plan still had an enclosed inner yard. To our surprise City Hall considered the program again too risky and asked for a "simple rectangle, please".
Now we had no choice but to revert to basic inner courtyard model and to part with the two ground levels model. The new "Campus Model" had two and three story buildings that were connected with roofed passageways, and a large inviting entrance plaza overlooking the street. It was a mini-campus program that left large land reserves for future development.
City Hall officials were unsure about this third model, and decided that Mayor Ron Huldai himself had to be consulted. Mr. Huldai was presented with a short video clip displaying the "Campus Model". As you can already guess, he wasn't pleased. Not only that he didn't care for the Campus Model, Mr. Huldai was very vocal and insistent that he wants to see "simple, rectangular buildings".
We didn't want to give up planning the school, and under the constraints we received from Tel Aviv Municipality a new plan was born - an elongated rectangular structure with two "tongues" that create a small inner yard. We didn't compromise on having as much natural light as possible, and a row of clerestory windows allows natural light into the hallways and classrooms, which have glass walls.
This plan met the requirements and budget and was approved. The building complies with green building standard - SI 5281, which stands for reduced environmental impact. We can only hope that our target audience, school graders aged 6-12 in Kohav Hatsafon neighborhood in Tel Aviv, are happy with it as much as we are.