by Alona Nitzan-Shiftan. University of Minnesota Press, June 2017. 361 p. ill. ISBN 9780816694280 (pbk), $39.95; ISBN 9780816694273 (h/c), $160.00.
Reviewed November 2017
Published on the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s appropriation of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan during the Six-Day War, this comprehensive study focuses on the architecture and city planning of Jerusalem of the following decade. Due to the city’s contested status and global importance, it becomes a focal point for broader discussions about the discipline of architecture, how politics can influence planning, and how Israel’s nation-building intentions are complicated by its religious aspects as a Jewish state.
The book consists of six themed chapters, each diving deeply into one aspect of creating the built environment in a city that triples in size in 1967. The author first investigates Israel’s early statehood and its adoption of modernist structures to house its growing population before presenting a group of young, native architects, whose “situated modernism” looked to Le Corbusier, Kahn, and others for a place-based architecture that often drew from the Palestinian vernacular. These sabras (native-born Jews) are contrasted with a group of Anglo architects, designers, and planners who had studied abroad and were more knowledgeable about urbanism. The author as addresses influences of state and government by exploring the powerful Ministry of Housing and three of its housing projects in East Jerusalem and Mayor Teddy Kollek and his significant influence on cultural development in the city. Kollek was also responsible for organizing an international group of architects and intellectuals to weigh in on the city’s development. The final chapter focuses on the Western Wall plaza and notably on the unfulfilled plan proposed by Moshe Safdie. The author concludes by tying the themes in the book to the present day.
The author cites numerous sources for Israeli architecture, for this period and otherwise, including many other aspects of Israeli/Palestinian history. She interviews many of the players involved—architects, city planners, politicians—as well as cites many archival sources in Israel and beyond.
There are ample black-and-white images: photographs, sections and plans, and some maps (which would have been helpful much earlier in the book), along with eight color plates. The index is welcome due to the numerous groups, places, and individuals mentioned.The book will be of interest to schools of architecture, not just in terms of its rich contribution to this particular period and region, but due to the wider professional discourse and major players involved.