Architecture in Israel

Integrating the European and the Middle Eastern.

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Old Technion Building, Haifa

Photo: Uriah Yaniv


At the same time, the rural communities of Jewish kibbutzim and moshavim were sprouting up all over Israel. These settlements were characterized by small houses with white walls and red roofs, laid out in geometric plans with surrounding gardens. These settlements stood in stark opposition to traditional Arab villages which were not centrally planned and grew organically as populations expanded.

The Bauhaus

In a further negation of Arab influence, in the 1930s, architects who had studied in the German design academy known as the Bauhaus brought their particularly modernist approach to building to Israel. Tel Aviv and some neighborhoods in Jerusalem became laboratories for the development of the Israeli Bauhaus style characterized by streamlined structural elements, the absence of ornamentation and a strict adherence to the international style dogma of "form follows function." Architects like Arieh Sharon, Zev Rechter, and Dov Carmi were influential in building up Tel Aviv with efficient, healthy, light-filled structures that reflected the sunlight and the active lifestyle of urban Zionist youth.

The adoption of international modernism also expressed the desire of the young state of Israel to link itself symbolically with Europe, rather than the surrounding Arab states. In Jerusalem, the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University became a showcase for the elegant minimalism of the international style of the 1950s.

Local Concerns

In the late 1960s, when the International style started to lose favor because of its monotony and lack of integration into local context, Israeli architecture returned to a fusion of local and international styles. The Bat Yam municipal building designed by Eldar Sharon, Zvi Hecker, and Alfred Neumann best exemplifies this era. Shaped like an ancient ziggurat, the structure integrates colorful abstractions of Islamic lattice-work patterns on its fašade while maintaining an iconic monumental presence.

Bat Yam Town Hall

(Eldar Sharon, Zvi Hecker and Alfred Neumann, 1962)


As in other Western countries, the 1970s in Israel ushered in an era of "brutalist" architecture influenced by the American architect Paul Rudolph. The style emphasized muscular, imposing forms made of unaltered industrial materials--an aesthetic that dovetailed with Israel's need to project military strength after its defeat in 1973. On Mount Scopus, the Ram Karmis faculty of humanities building appears almost like a fortress, with interior courtyards and look out towers along its imposing outer walls. This decade also saw the construction of many of the multi-story hotels and resorts in the country, as tourism became one of Israel's primary industries.

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Jessica Kraft

Jessica Kraft is a writer, educator, and artist based in San Francisco, CA.