Though the book spans over three decades, the exhibition focuses only on architectural projects realized between 1930 and 1940—the years when, according to Sagiv, European Modernism was embraced with the most coherence in Palestine’s three major cities: Ancient Jerusalem and the slopes of the Judean Mountains; the port city Haifa along the rugged bay; and Tel Aviv, the country’s first Hebrew city. It was during those years that Modernism, a movement determined to embrace a new beginning and ideological foundation, arrived in Palestine.
Its arrival, along with the influx of immigrants from Europe following the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, announced the elimination of the ornament and the celebration of function. “As newcomers, the architectural pioneers in Palestine did not have to struggle with classical architectural European precedents or adopt the vernacular ones,” write Ada Karmi-Melamede and Price in their book. “They were free to experiment and search for their own version of the modern language, which was neither inspired by European technological innovations of the time nor enamored of the picturesque local architecture and handicraft. A unique modern language evolved, which was a transformation of a borrowed set of rules.”
The exhibition also sheds light on the myth of the White City of Tel Aviv. UNESCO declared Tel Aviv as the White City Heritage Site in 2003 due to its housing the world’s largest collection of International Style (referred to by locals as simply “Bauhaus”) buildings. This declaration attracted not only architecture enthusiasts and an enormous real estate boom, but also a critique of the ethics of “whiting-out” the actual history of Tel Aviv and its origins in the adjacent Arab city of Jaffa. The reappearance of refurbished luxury
architecture in Tel Aviv, after years of neglect, is one of the factors driving the public’s interest in this exhibition.