Prof. Dr. Zvi Efrat

Richard Kauffmann and the Architectural Invention of the Zionist Rural

In 1920 Richard Kauffmann, who studied at the Technische Hochschule in Munich (with Erich Mendelsohn) and was greatly influenced by the garden city concepts of Theodor Fischer, was nominated by Arthur Ruppin, the so-called "father of Zionist settlement", to be head planner of the "Palestine Land Development Company" (PLDC), the company formed by the World Zionist Organization (WZO) to function as the chief land-acquisition agent in Palestine. Kauffmann had a prolific career in Palestine. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, he designed over 100 rural settlements and numerous garden neighborhoods, garden cities, and urban villas, many of which are considered architectural landmarks. While his very first assignment in Palestine — the design of the workers’ Moshav of Nahalal — turned out to be his most renowned work, he was destined to partake in the creation of a more idiosyncratic social construct and to become the first Kibbutz architect.

In his essay, "Planning Jewish Agricultural Settlements in Palestine", Kauffmann describes the theoretical vacuum that existed in the field of rural planning: "The definition of the science and art of 'town planning' in English; 'urbanisme' in French; and 'Städtebau' in German, very characteristically shows that rural planning has been in the past, and remains in the present, the most neglected step-child of modern physical planning, still young in itself. Accordingly, design and layout had to be started entirely anew and had to be developed and improved upon by new initiative, knowledge, and experience.

The paper will examine that the task for Kauffmann was indeed unprecedented, but apparently he set to it by applying a well-established and fast-spreading concept — an essentially urban one, that of the garden city — onto the Palestinian landscape and the Zionist imagination.

Prof. Dr. Zvi Efrat, architect and architectural historian, is a partner at Efrat-Kowalsky Architects (EKA) and was head of the Department of Architecture at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, between 2002 and 2010. He studied at Pratt Institute (professional degree), New York University (Cinema Studies) and Princeton University (PhD in the History and Theory of Architecture). He has taught at several universities and curated numerous exhibitions, among them: Borderline Disorder (The Israeli Pavilion at the 8th Architectural Biennale, Venice, 2002) and The Object of Zionism (Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel, 2010–11). With his office, Zvi Efrat specialises in the design of public buildings and in the re-programming of existing structures.

Recent publications: Borderline Disorder, Anthology for the Israeli Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, 2002; The Israeli Project: Building and Architecture 1948–1973, 2004; "The Haunt of the Rural: Zionist Colonization and Raumplanung", in: M. Angélil, R. Hehl (eds.): Collectivize! Essays on the Political Economy of Urban Form, 2013.