Yale Architects Help Build First Peace Park in the Middle East

Jun 16, 2014

A team of Yale Architects is lending their expertise to the first ever peace park in the Middle East.

Since 2006, the Friends of the Earth Middle East has been developing an historic and ecologically rich parcel of land at the convergence of the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers into the Jordan River Peace Park. The 2,000-acre parcel borders both Israel and Jordan, and when completed, gates on both sides of the border will welcome visitors to the park, no passport required.

The land is dotted with historically significant structures that need to be renovated, and re-purposed, including three bridges, a 14th-century Inn, and a Bauhaus-style railroad station built in the 1930s. The Friends of the Earth Middle East reached out to members of Yale School of Architecture's Urban Design Workshop to figure out the best way to do this. 

Yale architecture professor and Yale Urban Design Workshop project leader Alan Plattus said the renovations are relatively easy. Much harder, in this politically and culturally sensitive part of the world, is to restore in a way that makes everyone happy.

"The structures, one needs to understand, means different things to different people," Plattus said. "The challenge for a designer is to come up with a framework for such a park that is open, and welcomes different interpretations, rather than closed and fixed on a singular story, or singular interpretation."

Plattus said that much like urban renewal projects in Connecticut, and elsewhere in the U.S., the key is to work on the smaller projects that everyone can agree on, while both sides hammer out the details of larger projects. Work has already begun on the Israeli side of the park.