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Location: Kibbutz Maagan Michael
Client: Kibbutz Maagan Michael
completion date :
Stage 1: 2001
Stage 2: 2005
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Read the Article published in: www.architectureweek.com

Structural Changes in Kibbutz Life Require a New Concept of Housing

From Quantitative Uniformity to Qualitative Equality

 The social, economic and physical structure of the collective known as a ‘kibbutz’ was founded in Israel in the early 20th century.
Its uppermost value since its very beginning was equality, translated in most realms of community life not as equality of opportunities, in its qualitative sense, but rather in its quantitative sense, as formal uniformity.

In recent years, however, this old conception of equality has been redefined in many respects.
The social structure reverted back to the nuclear family, with children raised at home, and no longer in a communal house where they were regarded as the possession of the community as a whole. Wages, previously based on the notion that every member contributed according to his or her own ability, but was supported according to his or her needs, have now become differential, based on one’s contribution.

Housing in the kibbutz is perhaps the last fortress of the old and simplistic conception of equality; a conception that now more than ever can change.
According to this conception, houses are regarded as static models of predetermined uniform shape, arbitrarily positioned on the building site. All houses with no regard to any environmental factors on any specific plot resulted in having all identical plan and elevations. This approach created a qualitative inequality between the houses and inequality of opportunities among the tenants.
Moreover, the outcome of this dogmatic approach was that houses built in the desert environment of the Negev or the hilly Galilean environment were exactly the same.

The new model implemented by me in the design of the new houses in Kibbutz Maagan Michael was fundamentally different. The planning process I adopted was based on patterns that were common to all the houses, patterns that grew out both of the social structure of the kibbutz and the geographic location facing the sea. When these common patterns were used in different site conditions, a variety of houses emerged, sharing one architectural language.

Kibbutz Ma’agan is situated on a hill, with the new neighborhood on the western side that faces the sea.
Each planning decision, from the positioning of the house on the site, through the determination of the direction of its entrance in relation to the path, and unto the location of each window, was taken on the site of each plot.
First the position of each house in relation to the others was determined, so as to ensure that each one has an open view to the water and can enjoy the breeze coming from the sea. To determine the level of each house so that one could see the sea while sitting on the terrace, I used a crane that lifted me up to where I could see the sea. This height was measured and the level of the house was determined accordingly.

At the center of the neighborhood, a path was planned connecting the promenade that runs along the water and the path that runs from the communal dining hall at the heart of the kibbutz to the neighborhood.
What dictated the course of the path was my wish to see the water from every spot along the path.

The houses were arranged in small clusters, sharing a communal open space. Unlike the traditional pattern in the kibbutz, where all open spaces, called ‘the lawn’, are communal and the buildings are dispersed arbitrarily in between, here the secondary paths running between the houses defined in a non- formal way, with no fences, the “private” zone of each family. This sense of “private territory” unexpectedly created a new reality in which each family started to grow its own garden.

At this stage the site plan was completed. The position of each house in the neighborhood in relation to the paths and its position in relation to the sea produced different types of house plans.
The walls are all whitewashed light blue, complemented by regionally quarried sandstone characterizing the construction details.

The implementation of a conceptually new model in a very rigid social framework became possible now, as a result of an overall change in the reality of the kibbutz communities, a change that was inevitable in the twenty-first century.


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