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The socio-Political background for the immdiate adoption
of the
International style


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 and Communism.

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.