“Social Construction,” a new exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem running through December 31, 2016, puts a spotlight on the “white architecture” that early 20th century European modernists imported to pre-state Palestine  – and the social values this style reflects.

Curator Oren Sagiv gathered roughly 40 analytical and interpretive drawings together with more than 60 archival photographs of some of the iconic architectural projects built between 1930 and 1940 during the time of the British Mandate.

The Bialik School in Tel Aviv was built in the 1930s by Yaacov Shiffman (Ben Sira). Photo from the Kalter Collection
The Bialik School in Tel Aviv was built in the 1930s by Yaacov Shiffman (Ben Sira). Photo from the Kalter Collection

Of course, Tel Aviv is nicknamed the White City for its unrivalled abundance of these simple white, rounded buildings designed in what is known as the Bauhaus or International style. But they’re found in large numbers also in Jerusalem and Haifa.

The 1930 May Cinema in Haifa was done by Yehuda Lilienfeld. Photo from the Kalter Collection
The 1930 May Cinema in Haifa was done by Yehuda Lilienfeld. Photo from the Kalter Collection

“Social Construction” shows how the development of these urban centers “emerged from the influence of international modernism while forming a unique architectural language inspired by the ambitions to establish a new state and to create a new social order,” according to the museum.

A peek into “Social Construction” at the Israel Museum. Photo: courtesy
A peek into “Social Construction” at the Israel Museum. Photo: courtesy

“The influx of immigration to Palestine following the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the concurrent political upheavals in eastern Europe brought a generation of architects who embraced modernism as a new beginning.”

Architectural plans for The Casino, a landmark building on the Bat Galim promenade of Haifa built in 1934 by Alfred Goldberg. Photo courtesy of the Israel Museum
Architectural plans for The Casino, a landmark building on the Bat Galim promenade of Haifa built in 1934 by Alfred Goldberg. Photo courtesy of the Israel Museum

Located in the museum’s new Palevsky Design Pavilion, “Social Construction” draws on the research of Israeli architects Ada Karmi-Melamede and Dan Price, co-authors of Architecture in Palestine During the British mandate, 1917-1948. An English translation of the book was published as a companion to the exhibition.

This Bauhaus building at Tzina Square (now Dizengoff Square) in Tel Aviv, built in 1937 by Genia Averbuch, is now The Cinema boutique hotel. Photo from the Library of Congress, G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection
This Bauhaus building at Tzina Square (now Dizengoff Square) in Tel Aviv, built in 1937 by Genia Averbuch, is now The Cinema boutique hotel. Photo from the Library of Congress, G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection

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