Half, Daphna Edie

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  • Publication
    From Frugality To Exuberance: Architecture And The City In Israel 1923-1977
    (2017-01-01) Half, Daphna Edie
    ABSTRACT This dissertation argues for the emergence of a new materiality in Israeli architecture in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. It examines these decades in an extended historical time frame beginning with the British Mandate for Palestine. Materiality refers to local Israeli socioeconomic and geopolitical conditions. It also reflects the literal use, handling and finishing of materials in architecture. During this period first and second stages are described. The first was shaped by objective circumstances in which architecture operated in response to scarcity and demonstrated a realist attitude, one also embedded in the concept of asceticism. It was manifest in restrained formal gestures, abstention from material extravagance, the use of local materials, and an appeal to rational building procedures. The second stage emerging in the 60s had a different syntax. The analytical, skeletal frame constructions of the 50s turned synthetic, monolithic, and earth-bound. Compositions turned sculptural and exuberant. An appeal to the architect’s expressive ingenuity became a recognized design objective. The issue of banality versus extraordinariness in design surfaced at this point. My analysis of materiality is based on the following disciplinary themes: typology, public space, craft, and topography. These were dimensions of a broader search for a situated architecture undertaken by Israeli architects since the 1930s in which they sought to localize the importation of modern architecture from Europe. Typology offered an opportunity to synthesize modern building practices with vernacular models. It revealed the reciprocal interchange between cultures. Architects and planners perceived public space as a means to consolidate new communities, and represent the collective ethos of the new nation. Public space regained its value as a structural constituent in built fabrics. Building craft and use of local materials made architecture place-specific, of-its-time. Topographical awareness, and the mutual inscription between building and setting represented an ongoing desire to overcome the lack of an unmediated connection between the immigrants and their old/new territorial home. These disciplinary themes address a variety of scales from detail, building, neighborhood, city, and region. They demonstrate how Israeli architects adjusted the modernist appeal to abstraction and universalism with a perceptive recognition of their concrete reality.