Building the Dream: Zvi Efrat, Ilan Troen & Eyal Weizman
Chair: Iain Borden
For hundreds of years Jews dreamed of returning to Zion. At the end of the 19th century, the dream became reality, and between 1880 and the end of the 20th century the Zionist movement built nearly 700 villages, towns and cities. But what ideas inspired the planners and architects of the new State? What is the political role, played by architecture in creating today's Israel? And does the shaping and division of space reflect or fuel the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?
In this session, which aroused much heated discussion, leading writers and architects working in Israel today examined the role of architecture in shaping a hundred years of Zionist history. Ilan Troen, a strong defender of the Zionist enterprise, argued that the early Zionist settlements were constructed in reaction to the military threat provoked by the Arabs. Zvi Efrat emphasised that Israel is the most over-planned state in world and he drew several parallels between Israel's seemingly formless borders and the American frontier. Perhaps most controversial of all, Eyal Weizman spoke about the uniqueness of the settlements as a conscious civilian occupation as opposed to a military occupation. He regarded the building of Israel's wall as offensive and this provoked a tirade from members of the audience, who claimed Israel had a right to defend itself.
Ilan Troen is Professor of Israel Studies at Brandeis University and of Modern History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is the author of Imagining Zion (2003).
Zvi Efrat is an architect and Head of the School of Architecture atBezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. He curatedBorderline Disorder, the Israeli Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2002.
Eyal Weizman is an architect and co-editor of A Civilian Occupation:The Politics of Israeli Architecture (2003).
Iain Borden is Head of the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.