Venice 2008 | The Israeli Pavilion

Additions: Architecture along a Continuum | Israeli Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale
Additions: Architecture along a Continuum | Israeli Pavilion 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale

“Additions: Architecture along a Continuum” is the name of the exhibition in the Israeli pavilion at the Venice Biennale 11th International Architecture Exhibition, opening September 14, 2008. Amongst others, Jonathan Rokem and Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel, whom movingcities worked with during the ‘What can we learn from China?’-workshop, at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, February 2008. Dan Handel and Yonatan Cohen invited movingcities on behalf of the City/State Unit – Bezalel Academy for Art and Design to conduct the workshop. Both of them were selected to work out their ideas on the future of Tel Aviv as part of the Israeli Pavilion and present a project called ‘Affordable City’.

In the September issue of DOMUS, Aaron Betsky, curator of the 2008 Venice Biennale 11th International Architecture Exhibition, entitled “Out There: Architecture Beyond Building”, published a text called ‘The Unbuilt Project’ (subscribe for free to access article), giving an insight in the way he perceives the Arsenale, the exhibition’s main exhibition hall:

We felt that we could not make a project for this Biennale because what we are trying to do is simply reveal the essence of architecture beyond, within or without the form it usually takes, that of the building. We wanted to find something that would let us experience what is already there. So this is our project. It is not built, but unbuilt. We have not designed it, but stolen it. We cannot allow anyone to enter it, only to get a glimpse of it. Perhaps this description is the only form it will take.

Affordable City | A project by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel
Affordable City | A project by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel

“Additions, Architecture along a Continuum” is the name of the Israeli contribution to the Venice Biennale. The curators, Michal Cederbaum and Nitzan Kalush Chechick, selected a group of 16 Israeli architects and researchers to work around the following analysis of various types of additions; improvised and illegal, planned or spontaneous, initiated by the establishment or influenced by market forces:

In the Israeli built sphere, which is inhabited by a heterogeneous and conflicted society, building additions may be associated with several basic characteristics of the Israeli cultural mentality. A consciousness of improvising, a pervasive sense of transience and highly developed survival skills – a constant sense of competition over limited resources and an ongoing urge for additional acquisitions – has led to a distinctive chaotic environment. This mentality, which is mostly the result of many years of unresolved and not fully addressed conflict over territory, has given way to a “culture of grabbing.”

In a recent article in the Israeli Newspaper Haaretz, called Surroundings / Miscarriage of architecture, they explain their motives as follows:

The exhibition’s curators wish not only to present the Israeli aspect of the phenomenon of building additions, but also use the exhibition to position this phenomenon at the center of the local architectural discourse. This is a chance to “examine the significance of planning in the dynamic contemporary reality, and to update the role of architects and planners who increasingly find themselves facing unforeseen needs and conditions.”

Affordable City | A project by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel
Affordable City | A project by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel

The ‘Affordable City’-project is investigation set-up by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel and centered around the urban and architectural problem of Tel Aviv, which is the consequence of Tel Aviv’s municipality’s police. They explain this as follows:

At present, the Tel Aviv municipality’s policy is centered on the development of high-end residential projects, while providing no adequate solution to the growing scarcity of available apartments. In this context, one may predict a negative migration balance as weaker populations, and even middle-class residents, move out of the city. There is therefore an urgent need to provide a permanent solution for city residents who cannot afford rising housing costs. The urban development process outlined below is based on a scenario of maximum intervention in, and additions to, existing residential buildings at Tel Aviv’s historical center. This type of intervention may expand and vary the existing supply of residential units; in the absence of intervention on the part of public agencies, it may nevertheless contribute — at least in part — to maintaining and enhancing the city’s social heterogeneity.

Affordable City | A project by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel
Affordable City | A project by Jonathan Rokem, Alma Tsur, Yonatan Cohen and Dan Handel

Their research and design project investigates this issue along the lines of Changes in the Tel Aviv Real-Estate Market, the Reasons for Rising Housing Costs in Tel Aviv, an Affordable Housing Policy and ends with an Epilogue, Creating Affordable Housing Through Building Additions in Tel Aviv.

The whole catalogue of “Additions, Architecture along a Continuum”, including background and proposals of the different teams, can be downloaded here or from the Israeli Pavilion website .

2008 Venice Architecture Biennale
2008 Venice Architecture Biennale – Israeli Pavilion
2008 Venice Architecture Biennale – List of Israeli architects

City/State Unit – Bezalel Academy for Art and Design
‘What can we learn from China?’-workshop, at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, February 2008



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