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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Louis Kahn and Affordable Housing in Israel

Combining the subject of two recent posts, Louis Kahn and Cheap Housing in Israel, it is interesting to note that Louis Kahn was one of the architects who first addressed the problems of cheap housing for immigrants in Israel. In 1949 the Palestine Economic Corporation (PEC) invited 20 individuals, including Kahn, to a meeting in which the Israel Housing Survey Committee was formed. 400,000 houses would be needed to be built in the State's first decade at low cost. Kahn had been involved in affordable housing in the States and volunteered to help out. This spoke to Kahn's humanitarian side:
"Israel's housing crisis...offered an opportunity for an architect to alleviate human suffering and provide support for the emergence of a new, utopian socity. News of the staggering number of refugees coming to Israel must have been especially overwhelming, even shocking, to someone who had not been deeply enmeshed in the Jewish social-service world." (Susan Solomon, Louis I. Kahn's Trenton Jewish Community Center)
Kahn explored different technologies and felt that Israel could become a center for the prefabricated steel housing industry, supplying the whole Near East, while at the same time solving its own housing problems. He suggested using vacuum-formed concrete to cut down on the curing time.

Kahn's design for prefab housing in Israel looks similar to the British structures in Rosh Ha'ayin, and is far from the traditional-looking houses of Amidar. In this light, it is interesting to note that some of the British buildings in Rosh Ha'ayin are today being used for residential purposes.

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