Beer Sheva by Marta Rebón and Ferran Mateo

Fifty years ago, the finest architects in Israel examined their theories in Beer Sheva, transforming the place in an open-air laboratory. Since the city, as a gate to the Negev desert, was built by the State, the architects could follow their passions. The space was an «empty canvas», open for the implementation of new theories in urban planning and in architecture. The style originated in the 1950s in Europe as a radical protest on several fronts architectural, urban and political against the Modernist model that reigned supreme before World War II. Israeli Brutalism is not local, but it’s authentic in every sense, since it blends the European legacy with the North African one. Especially prominent, for example, is the quarter-kilometer long building, the longest building in the country, planned by Yasky-Alexandroni, and which became a symbol both of the city and of Israeli Brutalism. Now the gray city of Beer Sheva wants to be the counterpart of the White Tel Aviv Bauhaus. The city spreads over a vast area 117 square kilometers for a mere 196,000 residents, compared to 52 square kilometers for Tel Aviv with a population double that size.

«The answers to many structural questions contain definitive statements: most of the Brutalist buildings related to traditional desert planning, including the nomadic tents, the stone construction, building around an internal courtyard and along alleyways. Some of the structures related to the desert’s most prominent feature – the glaring sun – and tried to handle it. The movement and material of the structures were derived from their specific functions and the local “Hebrew” material: mostly concrete… Another comment on planning tradition dealing with the climate is evident in buildings nourished by an internal street, a restructuring of the typical alleyway of Kasbah construction. The street itself, as we recall, was conspicuously absent from urban planning cities built through Israeli public housing until the 1980s. However, the sparse construction and green strips of the initial planning were replaced over time by wide roads and apartment buildings but streets were never built. In contrast, the Ottoman city was built as a warp and weave orthogonal of streets, while typical desert cities were built densely, with narrow allies crossing them».

Beer Sheva: Brutalist and Neo-Brutalist Architecture, Hadas Shadar, Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv, 2014.

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