Dror Benshetrit is the mastermind behind innovative urban projects like a hydraulic boardwalk, parks with trampolines at the treelines, or a residential tower that looks alive with greenery. The Israeli designer’s unique eye keeps coming up with unconventional architectural solutions.
One of the most common design maxims is that form follows function, but in today’s architectural landscape, the most exciting firms make room for fantasy.
Studio Dror is one such firm, a lean Manhattan-based team of less than a dozen core full-time employees led by Dror Benshetrit. Born in Israel in 1977, Benshetrit is a self-described “generalist” who takes a product designer’s approach to architectural problem-solving, then compiles a team of world-class specialists to collaborate and bring his visions to life.
After studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Benshetrit moved to New York, founded his studio in 2002 and began partnering with brands like Target and Boffi on innovative home products.
Dozens of awards later, he’s known as one of the world’s most creative product designers and has translated his magical approach to sculptural installations, interior design, and even architectural pursuits like large scale international buildings and masterplans. But surprisingly, his career started by designing a simple broken vase for German homeware manufacturer Rosenthal.
“That first project was born out of the metaphor that we don’t break when we are falling or having a bad experience, but it shapes us as unique individuals,” says Benshetrit.
The vase’s surface looks like a cracked eggshell, shattered but still intact. It went on to become a best seller at Rosenthal’s and one of Benshetrit’s most well-known designs, second only to a bathroom vanity mirror for Boffi that rotates to reveal a hidden medicine cabinet.
Once rotated, the contents are accessible, but the mirror still faces forward, solving the annoying problem of having to open and close the cabinet multiple times while preparing for your day.
From a Rosenthal vase to massive urban projects
Although reinventing a medicine cabinet addresses an admittedly small problem, Benshetrit’s extensive architectural catalog proves that the same outside-the-box thinking can apply to massive projects.
One example is the Galataport master plan, an ambitious solution to turn Istanbul’s busiest port into a welcoming public space. The key to maximizing the potential of the area lied in a complicated solution closely tied to Benshetrit’s roots in product design.
A hydraulic boardwalk hides the cumbersome security logistics involved with 5,000 people boarding and leaving each ship. Burying the port’s complicated infrastructure helps activate scenic views of the Bosphorous strait and creates opportunities for retail, cafes, and restaurants. Benshetrit credits his team’s oblique cross-disciplinary mentality for arriving on such an innovative solution, which is already under construction.
“To a hammer, everything is a nail. When you’re a specialist, you’re thinking of every problem with the set of tools that you have. The more limited your toolbox is, the more you solve your problem with your limited tools,” says Benshetrit.
“We have to incorporate nature with architecture”
A journey through Benshetrit’s extensive portfolio shows more awe-inspiring concepts like the eye catching Houseplant residential tower and hotel on the border of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The rendering looks like science fiction, a mix of arches and cones inspired by Ottoman limestone buildings to the South as well as by Bauhaus and brutalist architecture to the North, unified by vibrant greenery built into the building’s exterior.
“We’ve forgotten about nature in the last 100 years. We’re basically building a hole in the ground, pouring in concrete, and forgetting that there used to be a forest before. We have to find ways to incorporate nature with architecture, make our cities greener, and have people remember that we are a part of nature,” Benshetrit points out.
Parkorman, a redesigned freeform adventure park for Istanbul
Another on-going project that shows Benshetrit’s commitment to making cities greener is Parkorman, a 1.5 million square meter park in Istanbul. Partly inspired by the birth of his child and planned around the symbolic goal of creating conditions for love, Benshetrit’s magical design looks like the stuff of childhood dreams.
Although construction has yet to begin, the renderings show swings and hammocks hanging in the tree canopies, winding circular paths that climb upwards and incorporate trampolines, with some so high that park-goers can jump above the treeline to experience panoramic views.
Sculpture trails and interactive fountains encourage exploration, and there’s even every child’s favorite playscape element: ball pits. To further encourage a child-like sense of exploration, the path through the park splinters to allow for freeform adventuring.
“Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will get you everywhere. Taking that into a masterplan strategy, Parkorman has no single path that leads from point A to point B, but rather a wave or network of paths that allows you to choose your own way. By doing that, you become the author of your experience,” says Benshetrit.
For the designer, sustainability is no result of fancy materials or high-tech. The most sustainable thing we can possibly do, Benshetrit thinks, is to create a closer connection to the people and products around us.
For more information visit the studio’s website.