The Development of Israeli Architecture and Construction

From Mud House and vine Gazebos to the Modern House – Evolution of a house 

בית אדמה ורנקולרי בספרד

The development of construction

From the beginning of time, man sought shelter. At first, prehistoric man lived in caves and natural refuges, but as the human brain developed, different residential structures were created in different parts of the world, such as the Eskimo’s igloos, simple wooden huts in Europe and straw huts in the African savannah.

The houses’ design was very simple, and they were made of building materials found in the area such as straw, wood, clay and stone.

An astounding fact is that even today, in the 21st century, there are still entire nations who continue to preserve traditional methods of construction, such as the Mongolian Yurt, the mud houses in Yemen and the Sahara, and the Bedouin tents in the Middle-Eastern desert.

This type of construction that was developed and adapted to a specific area, is called Vernacular architecture in the architectural jargon. Parenthetically I wish to point out that ‘green building’ (sustainable construction or eco-friendly construction) draws its principles from this type of construction.

Three traditional methods of construction were implemented in the Land of Israel: 

בית משפחת יריב - בניה ירוקה קונסט' פלדה דקת דופן

  1. Construction of mountain inhabitants – construction from local stone and wood beams, the development of which may be witnessed to this day in Arab and Druze villages, especially in old village houses.
  2. Construction of beach dwellers – houses made of soil bricks, sand mixed with straw, and sometimes even covered with seashells. These houses were not durable and required continuous maintenance. Until the early days of the British Mandate, houses of this type were still found in the Rishon LeZion dunes and all the way south to Ashkelon.
  3. Nomadic houses – the tent is the nomads’ home. It is easy to carry, can be quickly erected and dismantled, and is particularly suitable for a life of wanderings and changing climatic conditions.

The development of construction with the Jewish immigration and settlement in the Land of Israel 

בית מודרני עם סוכת גפנים

The end of the 19th century saw the arrival of the first settlers to the Land of Israel. The people of the ‘First Aliyah’ (Jewish immigration to Israel) built their homes from local building materials, i.e. basalt, limestone and sandstone. The construction method combined local raw materials with new building materials developed in Europe – concrete and plaster.

The architectural design and style was imported from Europe. The settlements were designed based on European villages’ urban planning, and the houses’ design was inspired by European edifices and the houses of the villages from which the settlers came. To this day, these old houses and the aforementioned urban planning may be seen in historical settlements such as Kinneret, Tel Hai, Rosh Pina and Zichron Yaacov.

The following waves of immigration brought with them various styles of planning and architectural design, that were integrated with the local Israeli Arab, Ottoman Empire and British Mandate styles of construction. Thus gradually evolved the familiar Israeli styles of construction in villages, kibbutzim and cities: the eclectic style, the international Bauhaus style, the kibbutz house and Jewish Agency buildings style, the ‘Garden City’, the Brutalist style, public building, public housing and “Train Buildings” (projects) and the “Build Your Own Home” style – all make up the Israeli architecture we know.

בית משפחת ברק - מבואת כניסה

The nature of contemporary Israeli construction

Contemporary Israeli construction is divided into two sections:

  • Entrepreneurship-contractor construction that began with public housing, and is now privatized for the construction of residential towers and skyscrapers in urban metropolitan areas on the one hand, and the construction of neighborhoods in the suburbs, on the other.
  • Construction of “Build Your Own Home” houses by private families, which began with private construction in settlements and small towns, and then spread in the 1980s to larger towns and satellite cities. This construction is stylistic and changes frequently according to changing design fashions.
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