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East Meets West

Travel Israel’s length and breadth to note the design influences and differences among cities and towns. Each city, from Jerusalem to the coast and northward to Caesarea and Acre are a fusion of older and newer European styles – the Romanesque to the Gothic, the Byzantine to the Crusades, the later Ottoman period, along with local Arab styles and later, the more modern designs of the Jewish pioneers of Second Aliyah period.

Modern day Israel is a mix of global styles, fusing the skyscrapers of the East with the towers of New York City. Jerusalem continues to explore styles that are best suited to Jerusalem stone, the mandated limestone construction material of the region, with an emphasis on the arches and ancient touches that herald the Old City and capital’s history. Tel Aviv continues to put up towers, with architects such as Phillipe Starck and Richard Meier contributing their unique stamp on this ever-changing city.


The move toward living outside the Old City walls was a gradual one, beginning in the late 1860s when Moses Montefiore established the neighborhood of Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The downtown neighborhoods of Nachlaot and Nachalat Shiva were other modest enclaves that are still a mix of Arab building styles suitable to living in a hot country – stone construction, arched ceilings and red-tiled roofs. Only the Templar neighborhood of the German Colony featured more stately buildings with a classical European feel to their design.

Tel Aviv

Before the Bauhaus style hit Tel Aviv in earnest, there were earlier influences that can still be seen today. Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv’s first main drags, sported buildings from the early 20th century in the neo-classical romantic style, a fascinating mix of Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Russian/Byzantine styles. Many of these early buildings have been beautifully restored and are marvelous to look at. Buildings constructed slightly later, from the 1920s, have a look that is described as the Eclectic style - a bit of classic architecture mixed with a taste of the Orient and a hint of Jewish embellishment in the decorative carvings on the building.

The Kibbutz and the Moshav

These small agricultural villages were based around an entirely different model than the early Yishuv town or city. Most grew organically and were built up over time, from tents to simple cement structures with small homes for families and larger buildings for meeting places. Many kibbutzim and moshavim are notable for their lovely gardens and walking paths – as most communities didn’t have cars and bicycles remain a popular way for the locals to get around.

Design – Functional and Industrial

In recent years, Israel has developed a name in the area of art and design as well as architecture. The Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv churns out graduates who are beginning to make their mark locally and globally. The Israel Design Center in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, has already become a hothouse for lectures and workshops on sustainable architecture, landscape, urban design and environmental concerns that are critically important for today’s designer. And the Technion and Bezalel Academy of Art and Design have their own architecture programs that form a competitive realm for budding urban designers.

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