Dr. Sigal Davidi

The Levant Fair of 1934: Constructing the Identity of the Jewish Society in Mandate Palestine

On 26 April 1934 the sixth Levant Fair opened in Tel Aviv. It was an international exhibition with the object of creating economic and trade ties between the world and the Middle East and in particular, the Jewish settlement in Palestine. The site in the north of the existing city was built according to a carefully prepared master plan and International Style principles, and was an important design and urban planning event, the first of its kind and scale in Palestine. Thirty countries were presented in pavilions which were designed and built in a speedy and well-organised manner. During the six-week exhibition period, the fair was visited by approximately 600,000 people, twice the Jewish population in the country at that time, and it was a great economic success.

The fundamental principle in planning the site and the buildings was to present modern and innovative architecture in a clear urban context which expressed an unequivocal statement on the identity of the crystallising Jewish society in Palestine. The Levant Fair was highly successful in introducing the modernist idea that Tel Aviv had developed as a unique and international site of modern architecture. The choice of modern architectural representation intended, above all, to strengthen the Western content presented by the fair and to create a total complex of modern character and representation.

The paper examines the rhetoric of the design and representation in the Levant Fair of 1934. The object of investigation is the ability of the fair to promote modern culture and Western concepts at the service of the Zionist vision, in a process in which modern architecture was a new and significant component for representing the Zionist settlement's identity in Palestine.

Sigal Davidi, Ph.D., recently earned her doctoral degree from Tel Aviv University with her dissertation on the subject "The Women Architects of Mandate Palestine and the Creation of Social Modernism". She received her B.A. in Architecture and her M.S. in Architecture, both with distinction, at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology. From 2002 to 2011, Sigal Davidi taught at the Holon Institute of Technology and, from 2004 to 2010, at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv. Additionally, she worked until 2011 as a practicing architect. Together with Sergion Lerman she curated the exhibition The Feminine Presence in Israeli Architecture, which exhibited in Israel three times during 2007–08.

In her research Sigal Davidi focuses on architecture during the Mandate Palestine period and female architects in Israel.

Selected publications: The Feminine Presence in Israeli Architecture, 2009 (ed.); "The New Generation of Women Architects in Israel", in: A. Marie Châtelet (ed.): Dictionary of Women Creators, 2013.