Zvi Efrat. The Israeli National Housing Project

  • Prefabricated housing blocks, Mitzpe Ramon, 1958. Architects: Zeev Rechter, Moshe Zarhy, Yaacov Rechter. Model
    1/1 | Prefabricated housing blocks, Mitzpe Ramon, 1958. Architects: Zeev Rechter, Moshe Zarhy, Yaacov Rechter. Model
Online discussion
11.03.2021 - 17:00
Discussion in the framework of online discussions series about housing policy and new forms of (co)existence 'GET REAL!'

Moderated by Anna Bitkina and Maria Veits / TOK

March 11, 2021
19.00 (Moscow time)/17.00 (CET) 
This lecture will discuss the Israeli horizontal housing block projects of the 1950s and its aftermath as a political symptom of a regime of centralist control over lands, infrastructure, planning, production, and population mobilization. Only an authoritative state apparatus (or a proto-state monopolistic organization such as the Labor Federation) has the territorial drive and the administrative capability to seize  and nationalize lands; to annul existing parcelizations; to disperse ad hoc  “facts on the ground”; to lay wasteful infrastructure across the landscape;  to devise random urban and architectural compositions; to dictate and regulate zoning and building standards; to duplicate, replicate, and mutate at  every scale; and to charge baseline generic architecture with patriotism (“ingathering of the exiles”) and welfare-state (“melting pot”) rhetoric.

For the post-War generation of local architects, the elementarity dictated by the state was perceived not as a temporary default, but as a moral stipulation and a professional challenge to develop simplified building details and perfect the layouts of minimal apartments of 25, 28, 34, and 39 square meters, as well as “luxury apartments” of 60 and 65 square meters.  This housing scene-of-origin ended abruptly with the political turn about of the 1970s in Israel and the overall privatization of the housing market (yet, not the state’s control over the lands and the settlements policies).  


Prof. Dr. ZVI EFRAT, architect and architectural historian, is partner at Efrat-Kowalsky Architects (EKA) and was Head of the Department of Architecture at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem (2002-2010). He holds B.Arch. from Pratt Institute, MA. In Cinema Studies from NYU and PhD. In Architectural History and Theory from Princeton University. He has taught and lectured worldwide, published extensively and curated numerous exhibitions. 

Efrat is an author of two books: The Israeli Project: Building and Architecture 1948-1973, which was published in Hebrew in 2004 by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and   The Object of Zionism, The Architecture of Israel  published by Spector Books, Leipzig, in 2018. 


Among the recent projects of Efrat-Kowalsky Architects (EKA) there are Performing Arts Campus in Jerusalem: The Israel Museum in Jerusalem (renewal and expansion); City Museum of Tel Aviv (preservation and new additions): The Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art; The Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki, Greece. 


The event takes place as a part of the program “Get Real!”, a series of online discussions about housing policy and new forms of (co)existence curated by TOK in December 2020 -  June 2021 as a part of 5 season of its ongoing project “Critical Mass”. New season focuses on the emerging and complex issues of housing, real estate, urban development, contemporary and historical housing conditions in post-socialist and neoliberal contexts as well as pressing socio-political and environmental processes in megacities.