Dr. Marina Epstein-Pliouchtch

Le Corbusier and the Young Jewish Architects

The paper examines the relationships between Le Corbusier and the young Jewish architects from Palestine and Europe, as well as Le Corbusier's involvement in attempts to resolve the question of resettlement of the Jewish refugees in the 1930s, mainly in Palestine, based on his 1930's project of the "Radiant village".

In the 1930s, various young architects left Palestine to study architecture in Europe. Following their studies, some of them worked in local architectural firms there. Le Corbusier's atelier in Paris attracted several young architects from Palestine, among them Sam Barkai (1898–1975) and Benjamin Chlenov (1908–1991).

Barkai worked in Le Corbusier's atelier in 1933, where he became acquainted with and influenced by Le Corbusier's architecture. Returning to Palestine, he used Corbusian principles in his own work. In 1934, Barkai became the Palestine correspondent for the influential French architecture magazine L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, a position he held until 1939.

Paris in the 1930s also attracted Jews who were fleeing anti-Semitic persecution, among them the German-Jewish architect Julius Posener. In 1932 Posener had been appointed as the editorial secretary of L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, a position he held until 1935. During his period, he established an amicable correspondence with Le Corbusier, a member of the journal's patronage committee. In 1935 Posener emigrated to Palestine. Le Corbusier considered Posener's emigration as a possible opportunity for planning in Palestine, congratulated Posener on his voyage and suggested a professional collaboration in the new country.

Meanwhile in Palestine, Jewish architects were creating their own organisations to promote the local architecture. Posener and Barkai were members of the Chug (Circle), a group of Modernist architects operating in Palestine. They published architectural magazines, used their experience in L' Architecture d'Aujourd'hui to define the form and content of the architecture there, and corresponded with Le Corbusier.

The paper presents, through new archival evidence, the connections between Le Corbusier and the Jewish architects, and Le Corbusier's contribution to the question of Jewish immigration and settlement in Palestine before World War II.

Marina Epstein-Pliouchtch, Ph.D., is an architect and a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, as well as in the programme of Conservation Studies at the Western Galilee College, Israel. She was director of the Architectural Heritage Research Centre at the Technion, Haifa, from 2003 until 2008. Marina Epstein-Pliouchtch has initiated and organised several international conferences, received numerous prizes and gained much national and international academic recognition in the field of architecture.

Her main research interest is the architecture and town planning of the 20th century, particularly with respect to Le Corbusier and the international relations between architects.

Recent publications: "Is the Kibbutz a Radiant Village?", in: A. Ballantyne (ed.): Rural and Urban: Architecture Between Two Cultures, 2010 (with T. Fainholtz); “A Narrative Portrait of Israeli Modernity: the Urban and the Rural”, in: M. Casciato; E. d'Orgeix (eds.): Modern Architectures: The Rise of a Heritage, 2012; Richard Kauffmann and the Zionist Project (with M. Levin, in print); “On the Concept of Non-complete in Architecture”, Architext, 2013 (with A. Bar-Eli).