During the year of 2013, I went out for a seven day photography trip in the capital of the Negev desert, Beer-Sheva, to benefit the book on historical brutalist architecture in the city. It was an exciting and fascinating journey for me going through the foundations of the city built from the sand dunes by young and enthusiastic architects, who later became the founding fathers of architecture in Israel. Amongst them: Yasky / Alexandroni, Nadler-Bixon-Gil, Judge-Zarhi, Ram Carmi, and many others.
During the preparations for photography I had several meetings with the book’s creator and architectural researcher Dr. Hadas Shadar, and Head of Bauhouse center and publisher Micha Gross. I also read and learned about the history of the buildings and the Uniqueness they represent in the local landscape. Following the book’s publication a year later, I was pleased to present an exhibition from my photography.
But what is Brutalist architecture?
The state of Israel built the modern city of Beer Sheva during the first two decades of its statehood. The style originated in the 1950s in Europe as a radical protest on several fronts: architectural, urban and political against the modernist model that reigned supreme before World War II. Brutalism was converted by state architects until it became Israelism.
It is an architectural ethic that sought to express the structure’s truth: its functional, materialistic and local truth and the movement within it. This contrasts with “style”, which often amounts to a collection of rules on “right” and “wrong”, “pretty” and “ugly”. Even the name “Brutalism” stems from the search for truth. In this case, the truth of the material: “Béton brut” in French translates to “bare concrete”.
The Beer Sheva brutalism seeks to interpret the specific place: the desert and its many physical and cultural layers. Beer Sheva’s brutalist structures are similar to other brutalist buildings in other parts of the country (most designed by the same architects) yet they still hold the uniqueness of the desert.
Understanding their historical and architectural significance is essential to understanding Beer Sheva’s uniqueness. Beer Sheva, presented in future plans as Israel’s next metropolis, is unlike other metropolises – Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – having its own individuality including throughout its brutalist landscape.