Housing and the role of professional knowledge in practice and theory

Kallus Rachel

The changing role of architects in housing provision in Israel, as expressed in professional practice and discourse, is related to external and internal systemic changes. Externally, social and political structural transformations are the result of the decline of the welfare state and the move to a neo-liberal economy. Internally, the profession is experiencing a post-modern legitimacy crisis that has increased awareness of the autonomy of architectural knowledge. The coincidence of these critical turning-points has influenced the role of professionals in spatial production processes and housing as a central category of innovative knowledge.

From being a central project in the days of high modernism, housing has become, in Israel and elsewhere, secondary to professional endeavor. It is no longer a dominant area of professional interest, personal deliberation, or collective debate. The proposed research traces the vagaries of housing as a topic of professional practice and examines the relationship of housing to professional knowledge, questioning in particular how housing practices have changed during systemic transformations, and how this has affected architectural practice and discourse. Of special concern is the influence of social and political change (i.e. post-statehood, the shrinking welfare state, and the move to a neo-liberal economy) on paradigmatic shifts, particularly those concerning architectural legitimacy, and how this has affected housing as a category of innovative architecture as expressed in professional practice and theory.

The core investigation focuses on architecture as a practice-led discipline, using ethnographic tools to examine the architectural knowledge involved in housing projects. Participant-observation and interviews with ten offices will focus on their professional interactions during the design process; attention will be paid to ideas generated and discussed, issues emphasized, and techniques used. Special consideration will be given to clients, agencies, consultants, and how their input is mediated through professional knowledge, with emphasis on defining criteria of such knowledge deriving from each context. Reviewing all facets of the process will define the modes of operation and approaches to housing in each of the reviewed offices. Descriptions of the activities and practices of architects will coincide with attempts to interpret these activities in relation to government institutions and apparatuses. This will increase understanding of professional practice and discourse vis-à-vis systemic transformation and the way neo-liberal governance functions on-site.


Yizhar, D. and Kallus, R. (2012), “Splitting Discourse: Israeli Professional Practice in the Neo-liberal Era”, special issue: Planning and the Market in the Condition of Systematic Transformation: finding the proper balance (guest editors: Alexander, Slaev, Jerome, Anderson and Sonia, Hirt), Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 29(4):347-360