Czech designed ‘cactus’ watchtower to be constructed in Jerusalem

‘Cactus’ watchtower visualisation by Martin Rajniš

The city of Jerusalem is to get a new watchtower by the famous Czech architect Martin Rajniš, who has built several such towers around the Czech Republic. The watchtower, typically a light construction of wooden beams and timber, will be built as part of Jerusalem Design Week. It is set to be erected in the Western part of the city in early July.

‘Cactus’ watchtower visualisation by Martin Rajniš
Martin Rajniš is an internationally renowned architect and one of the authors of the famous Máj shopping centre. In his newer projects, which include a building on the Czech Republic’s highest peak, Sněžka and the Gulliver airship in Prague’s DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, the artist has focused more and more on designs using natural materials, especially wood.

The project of the Jerusalem watchtower was initiated by the Czech Centre in Tel Aviv, which has cooperated with the architect in the past. According to Lukáš Přibyl, the head of the Czech Centre, Israeli architects and designers really love his work:

“When I was discussing the programme of the upcoming Jerusalem Design Week, they told us that they would be interested in building a tower. We said it was a good idea but it didn’t make sense to have it there just for a week or two, so we suggested creating something much bigger.

‘Cactus’ watchtower visualisation by Martin Rajniš
“We decided to give it a shot and started to negotiate with all the relevant authorities to get the necessary permits. And since we have a really good relationship with the City of Jerusalem, we actually managed to gain all them in a very short time. So if everything goes well, we will be able to open the tower in early July.”

The 16-metre tall watchtower will have the typical light construction characteristic of the architect’s late works. Martin Rajniš outlines the details:

“The watchtower has the shape of a cactus – incidentally, the Jewish settlers call themselves sabras, which means a cactus. It is not too high, so that it will fit into the surrounding garden. The ground plan has an octagonal shape, which widens a little towards the top. The lookout case can be lifted up, offering an amazing view of the Mount of Olives and the Wailing Wall.”

The tower will be standing in a complex called Hansen House, which served as a leprosarium until the mid-19th century and was turned into a cultural centre a few years ago. Lukáš Přibyl says that in the future, Czech-Israeli exchanges should take place under the tower.

Martin Rajniš,  photo: Jana Kudláčková
The dismantled tower is now going to be shipped to Jerusalem to be assembled on site. Architect Martin Rajniš again:

“We have completed the individual timber parts of the tower. Next week, we are going to load them into two containers and send them across the Mediterranean Sea. In twenty days, they should reach Haifa and then continue to Jerusalem.”

After it reaches its destination, the watchtower should be assembled within two weeks’ time and if everything goes according to plan, it will open to the public at the start of July, when the annual Jerusalem Design Week gets underway.