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JUNE 2012
News International Technology Transfer Research Opinion Campus
Green Treasures
A World Record
Marathon Time
384 Hours!
Green Treasures
By Daniel Orenstein, PhD

The children in my Haifa neighborhood usually strip the mulberry trees of their fruit long before I can find the time to indulge. But now I have a secret supply. The Technion Ecological Garden - 20 dunams of vegetation winding between campus buildings and just a few steps from my office - is home to at least a half dozen mulberry trees, and the fruit is ripening as I type. When I expressed my excitement to Shay Levy, the new garden director, he answered directly, “In this garden, you’ll have to compete with the birds.”

The gardens are fulfilling their role not only as a habitat for domesticated and native species of plants, but the flowers are filled with insects, the ponds with fish and frogs, and the trees with birds. An ecological garden in the full sense of the word.

In addition to the mulberry trees, I’ll soon have grapes as well. For figs, I’ll have to come in the fall. If I get desperate, there are always pine seeds. But even without the culinary pull, the gardens provide a welcome respite for a mid-day break. Considering the amount of activity within the laboratories of the Technion, and their close proximity to the gardens, it remains surprisingly tranquil. During my visit this week, Shay was overseeing the cleaning of the garden’s pond and the planting of papyrus. “Couples used to come to have their wedding pictures taken here,” he tells me as we watch a gardener pull out sludge that has accumulated in the pond. Even as he speaks, a couple of students sit down alongside the pond to chat quietly.

“Every course and every visitor finds their own connection to the garden.”
Ecological gardens are a true treasure of universities - often underappreciated, yet almost always fulfilling a role initiated by visionaries who formulated and articulate their educational mission. Aldo Leopold, a central figure of the American conservation movement, initiated the University of Wisconsin arboretum by defining the function of the arboretum as “a starting point in the long and laborious job of building a permanent and mutually beneficial relationship between civilized men and a civilized landscape.” The Technion garden initiator, the late professor Zev Naveh, similarly expressed the crucial role the gardens could play at the Technion. Naveh, inspired by Cornell University (our new partners in creating the New York City tech campus), envisioned an ecological garden that would “combine the beauty of the natural landscapes that remain within the campus with new plantings, all for the benefit of teaching and research, so the beauty of the garden can be enjoyed by the entire Technion community.”

In this the gardens are a success. Through the establishment and cultivation of the garden, Naveh and others set the foundation for my landscape architecture and planning students to explore the gardens and define the ecological goals and challenges faced in maintaining the site. Other courses are constantly passing through the gardens, whether ecologists or hydrologists, agricultural engineers or landscape architects. They come to study the native pines and carobs, cypress and oak, and shrubby pistacia, to appreciate the wildflowers (lupines, anemones, hollyhock, cyclamens, orchids and others), and study how the gardens capture and utilize water runoff from the university.

Every course and every visitor finds their own connection to the garden. Shay, who is completing his PhD in fire ecology at the University of Haifa, jokes with a visiting group of German highschool students that he has always shared the Israeli dream of a home with a half-dunam garden. He never expected that he would have 20 dunams. With the proper attention, care and funding, those 20 dunam can continue to fulfill the role of education and research, relaxation and appreciation, restoration and cultivation; always keeping one foot of the Technion community rooted in the natural environment of Mount Carmel.

Dr Daniel Orenstein is senior lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning and teaches, among other courses, “Current issues in the Israeli Ecological Landscape.”
© 2012 Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Division of Public Affairs and Resource Development
All rights reserved. If you wish to use any text or graphics contained herein, please contact focus@technion.ac.il
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