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Dolphinarium Project

Dolphinarium Project

Mai Omer 2012 - 2016

The Dolphinarium project examines the idea of “reform” as a political, institutional and aesthetic process. This idea is portrayed by the abandon Dolphinarium compound in Tel Aviv.


The Compound

The compound was located in the vibrant sea line between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, on the northern border of Charles Clore park. The park was planted on the ruins of Manshiyeh, a palestinian neighborhood which had symbolized the link between Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The Park was designed by my grandfather, the landscape architect, Hillel Omer. Today this area attracts many diverse populations, including tourists from nearby hotels, prayers from the nearby mosque, surfers from the beach, immigrants and local residents both Arab and Jewish.

Despite its size and vital location, the Dolphinarium was neglected for more than 20 years. In 2018  it was demolished as part of a questionable real-estate deal between international tycoons, governmental agencies and the Tel Aviv municipality.

 Dolphinarium Think Tank meeting 2012

Dolphinarium Project, מאי עומר, Mai Omer artist curator

The History

The Dolphinarium's location and its history were emotionally, culturally and politically explosive. It was initiated and built in the 70's by Architect Nahum Zolotov. Zolotov, who was also an amateur diver, wanted to share his love for the sea world with the Israeli public. He teamed up with businessman Zvi Efron. Efron managed to attract Jewish investors from South Africa, following an agreement signed between their government and the Israeli government that allowed them to transfer money to Israel for investing in industrial ventures.

In its first year the Dolphinarium was considered a success, but soon it struggled financially and was closed after operating only for 5 years. Until the mid 90's there have been a few unsuccessful attempts to re-operate the dolphinarium. From 1995 -2018 most of the compound was neglected. During those years only parts of the compound were used by small businesses such as the Klara night club, and Galim surfing school.

 Dolphinarium documentation

Video stills 2016

Dolphinarium Project
Dolphinarium Project
Dolphinarium Project

Interview with Architect

Nahum Zolotov


Zolotov's initiative to build a world-class Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv was full of good intentions. However, the outcome of this project was disastrous. The Dolphinarium was often known for the death of the dolphins, a possible murder of a dolphin trainer who was in fact a double agent (and whose body was found in the abandon compound), and the most horrific, the suicide bombing in 2001, killing more than 20 teenagers waiting to get inside a club in the compound. The project researches this conflictual history.


The Think Tank

The project also relates to the dolphinarium's future by proposing a way to re-use it.

In order to form this proposal, I initiated an interdisciplinary think tank.

The members of the think tank were: architect Tula Amir, architect Dr. Yael Allweil, architect Tamara Levi, artist Zion Abraham Hazan and former city council member Sami Abu- Shahadeh.

As a think tank we met activists, designers, academics and different members of the communities connected to the Dolphinarium area .




Dolphinarium Project


Think Tank 's  booklet


Dolphinarium Project

After a year of working together the think tank formed a proposal to re -use the compound as a “built public open space”. A park that has the benefits of closed and “protected” public spaces which the area lacks. This way it could serve many diverse populations and enable various social activities.

The derelict site could have become a significant focal point that connects surrounding neighborhoods, populations and activities.

The think tank's products were presented in artistic, architectural and municipal contexts.




Debates in the “Regional Planning and Building Committee”


Dolphinarium Project

"Jane Walk- Dolphirarium"


Mai Omer artist curator, מאי עומר
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