The International Style "made aliya" at a period when
the Jewish community (Yishuv) was led by the Labor Movement and was
shaped according to its values. The ideological platform of the Israeli
Labor Movement was identified with revolutionary leftist movements
active in Europe at the time. The International Style was congruent
in spirit with those movements, which adhered to notions of "progress".
It was specifically identified as the language of architecture representing
the global vision - "Workers of the world, unite!" - of Socialism
One of the reasons for this identification was the fact that in the
first years after the 1917 Revolution, Soviet architects eagerly adopted
"Machine Age architecture". Their enthusiasm was suppressed with the
consolidation of Stalin's dictatorship.
Another significant stimulus to the style's "leftist identity" was
provided by the Nazis, who sought an architectural style which would
manifest their singularity and superiority, rather than an international
language adapted to multiple and "inferior" peoples throughout the
world. Their view was expressed through photomontage following the
1927 Weissenhofsiedlung exhibition in Stuttgart, which featured housing
types corresponding to the principles of the new architecture.
The postcards depict people dressed in Arabian Nights costumes against
the backdrop of white buildings, implying that: 'these are structures
reminiscent of Arab architecture, surely befitting these inferior
races' (Ir Levanah, p. 23 [Hebrew]). The ultimate expression of the
rejection of the International Style was the closing down of the Bauhaus
school, a large part of whose teachers and students either identified
with the ideological platform of the left-wing movements or were perceived
as such. In capitalist America the International Style was absorbed
with some alterations, yet with no conspicuous opposition on account
of its political identification with the leftist movements. In Israel
the ideological platform represented by the style was in tune with
the class perceptions prevalent at the time. The "simplicity" and
"austerity" of the times indeed resulted from the lack of finance,
but at the same time, it was a fundamental value in the ideological
platform of the Labor movement. The simple, austere, unadorned look
of the International Style was adopted without hesitation as it was
deemed befitting and effective, and met the needs of the time. Thus,
while in Europe only discrete buildings were initially erected in
International Style, in Israel clusters of buildings were constructed,
which created entire urban textures.
In Tel Aviv the style's absorption occurred concurrent to growing
tensions with the Arab Jaffa in 1936-1939. The technology of concrete,
iron and plaster construction did not require a high level of professional
proficiency, and in many respects freed Tel Avivians from dependence
on Arab builders and artisans. The idea of 'Hebrew Work' was consistent
with the efficacy and simplicity of the construction process introduced
by the International Style, making it possible to hire Jewish laborers.
The pervasion of the International Style on one hand, and the construction
of a new port, on the other, attested to the independence and distinction
of Tel Aviv from the parent city Jaffa, a result of both the will
of its inhabitants and practical necessity.
The International Style furnished the need for a unique architectural
style, and the eclectic quest for a "Hebrew Style" became a thing
of the past.