Development from the Periphery: The export of nation-building knowledge from Israel abroad, 1950-1970

Kallus Rachel

The “export” of Israeli architectural knowledge in the second and third decades of the State of Israel was significant and far-reaching, involving many architects, some known and some of lesser reputation, who had worked in Africa, Asia and Latin America. During its early years, Israel viewed itself as integral to the post-war world, combining aspirations for political legitimacy and economic betterment with concern for the challenges of emerging societies elsewhere. Having absorbed and provided for more than a million immigrants during the early 1950s, Israel’s expertise in nation-building was acknowledged, especially in regard to regional planning and housing. Exporting that expertise was part of the State’s effort to improve diplomatic relations by playing a prominent role in post-WWII development. Israeli architects, construction companies, planners, and engineers, worked extensively abroad, mainly in developing countries, answering the State’s call. This was a diplomatic strategy, but also a method of coping with economic recession in the aftermath of the great building years, as well as a chance to gain international exposure and experience elsewhere.

The proposed research focuses on Israeli architects involvement in international projects from the 1950s to the 1970s, to evaluate their impact on post-WWII transfer of professional knowledge. The examination of the export of professional knowledge acquired during nation-building will contribute to the historiography of Israeli architecture. The focus on regional planning will add a significant layer to the study of modernisms and enrich the understanding of post-WWII development outside the western context. The detailed study of selected projects and their comparative analysis vis-à-vis political and professional paradigms of the time will reveal Israeli contribution to the shifting patterns of global professional expertise in post-WWII development. This will reaffirm the role of professionals in the distribution of knowledge, the creation of a community of practice and its potential in the current resurfacing “cosmopolitan moment”.


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Feniger, N. and Kallus, R. (forthcoming), “Expertise in the Name of Diplomacy: The Israeli Plan for rebuilding the Qazvin Region, Iran”, International Journal of Islamic Architecture 4(2)