1st Edition

Arieh Sharon and Modern Architecture in Israel Building Social Pragmatism

By Eran Neuman Copyright 2024
    264 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Arieh Sharon and Modern Architecture in Israel: Building Social Pragmatism offers the first comprehensive survey of the work of Arieh Sharon and analyzes and discusses his designs and plans in relation to the emergence of the State of Israel.

    A graduate of the Bauhaus, Sharon worked for a few years at the office of Hannes Mayer before returning to Mandatory Palestine. There, he established his office which was occupied in its first years in planning kibbutzim and residential buildings in Tel Aviv. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Arieh Sharon became the director and chief architect of the National Planning Department, where he was asked to devise the young country’s first national masterplan. Known as the Sharon Plan, it was instrumental in shaping the development of the new nation. During the 1950s and 1960s, Sharon designed many of Israel’s institutions, including hospitals and buildings on university campuses. This book presents Sharon’s exceptionally wide range of work and examines his perception of architecture in both socialist and pragmatist terms. It also explores Sharon’s modernist approach to architecture and his subsequent shift to Brutalist architecture, when he partnered with Benjamin Idelson in the 1950s and when his son, Eldar Sharon, joined the office in 1964. Thus, the book contributes a missing chapter in the historiography of Israeli architecture in particular and of modern architecture overall.

    This book will be of interest to researchers in architecture, modern architecture, Israel studies, Middle Eastern studies and migration of knowledge.

    List of figures

    Preface and Acknowledgements

    Socialism-Pragmatism: An Introduction

    1.      Bauhaus and Berlin: Sharon’s Formative Years

    2.      Restrained Modern: Local Manifestations of Modern Architecture

    3.      Dialectics of Cooperativeness: Formal-Informal in the Kibbutzim

    4.      Physical Planning in Israel: Strategies of Decentralization

    5.      Sharon and Idelson: Civil Monumentality

    6.      Planning the Holy Basin of Jerusalem: The Sacred and the Profane

    7.      Sharon in Nigeria

    8.      Systemized Modularity: Arieh Sharon and Eldar Sharon

    Arieh Sharon: An Epilogue



    Eran Neuman (B.Arch., Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, 1996; MA, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2000; PhD, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2004) is an architect, designer and architectural historian and theoretician. He is a professor of architecture at Tel Aviv University’s Azrieli School of Architecture, which he headed from 2010 to 2018. Since October 2019, he has held the position of Dean of the Faculty of the Arts, Tel Aviv University. Neuman is also the founding director of the Azrieli Architectural Archive at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His research concentrates on the history of Israeli architecture, both before and after the establishment of the State of Israel; architecture and commemoration; and the influence of technology on architectural design. He lectures frequently at leading institutions around the world. His numerous publications include Shoah Presence: Architectural Representations of the Holocaust, Performalism: Form and Performance in Digital Architecture (with Yasha Grobman), David Yannay: Architecture and Genetics, and Arieh Sharon: The Nation’s Architect.

    One of the key architects of modern Israel, both literally and metaphorically, Arieh Sharon not only brought the methods of the Bauhaus to mandate Palestine, he worked at every scale of the emerging Israeli state from the design of individual housing units to planning projects for the urban development of the entire country.  Eran Neuman brings new insights to all aspects of the architect’s prodigious body of work, with equal attention to the design inventiveness and to the political and cultural stakes of a career that mirrors the development of the young nation.  From the Bauhaus to Israeli architects creating key buildings for newly independent Nigeria, this study is at the very intersection of Israel's emerging place in the world in th 1950s and 1960s.

    Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University


    The publication of Eran Neuman’s groundbreaking study dedicated to the life and long professional career of Arieh Sharon (1900-1984) marks a pivotal moment in the understanding of the values of modernity in architecture in the transition from Mandatory Palestine to post-independence Israel. The author reflects on the widely influential works of Sharon and his associates (Benjamin Idelson in the decade 1954-64, and his son Eldar, who joined the office in 1965) through a narrative that evolves in eight densely written chapters, framed between a highly interpretative introduction and an epilogue in which the readers find a critical summary of what meant to be the central figure of the new nation’s architect. Although the chapters follow a chronological account —from Sharon’s formative years at the Bauhaus to his projects in Nigeria (1961-76)—the interpretative approach reveals the complexity of intentions of the author, when he is addressing the analysis of the projects for the Kibbutzim, the development of the state planning, and the growth of a civic monumentality. The book shows in unprecedent depth and detail how Sharon’s complex modernism gave shape to the institutions of Israeli independent society.

    Maristella Casciato, Senior Curator, Head of Architectural Collections, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles