09 April 2015

Land of Design

Text: Marie-Kathrin Zettl

Israel – a country whose surface area is equal to that of the German federal state of Hesse – and its design scene determine the focus theme of the upcoming magazine. In addition to a selection of design institutions and studios and the country’s specific approach to design, the three script systems that exist alongside each other, Hebrew, Arabic and Latin, and the Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv play a role. In her article “Das Zomet Institut – Sabbath-proof design”, Mirna Funk, a journalist who has been living in Tel Aviv since 2014, tackles the products developed by the Zomet Institute especially for the Sabbath. We asked the author a few questions about Israeli design in advance. form 259 will be published on 14 April 2015.


Is there, in your opinion, a specific Israeli design? And if so, how would you define it?


Yes, there is a specific type of design. Nevertheless, the same thing is happening to Israeli design as to the design in other countries, globalisation is diluting it. It is becoming mixed with international standards.

Defining Israeli design is somewhat complicated. Israel’s culture is a young one. And this culture is constantly examining what defines and distinguishes it. Israeli design is therefore not defined by specific characteristics, but also by its constant self-examination. Even so, of course, place, people and history influence Israeli design. Firstly, Israel is in the Middle East and so we find it has many eastern elements. Secondly, to a large extent, its inhabitants are originally from Europe which means they have imported the European design language. And thirdly, when it was founded, Israel was a socialist state. And many forget this because Israel is so closely associated with the USA nowadays. So, you can see socialist design in the architecture but also in industrial design, sometimes even Russian propaganda.


How would you describe the current situation in Israel’s design scene in an international context?


Israel is one of the industrialised nations. Technologically, economically and culturally it belongs to the West, although it is in the Middle East. Globalisation is diluting national identities. Those working internationally do so because they have developed an international language. So it is not important which area this language comes from. This is also true for Israel.

As in many other European cities, the trend is moving towards breaking minimalism with traditional things. Here Eames chairs are found in apartments and people hang up 60’s lamps. They mix Ikea with vintage. Israel is no different to any other country in this respect. So of course new design fits this international language.



Can you name three examples that are typical of Israeli design in your opinion?


Architecturally, Bauhaus, brutalism and Le Corbusier have had the greatest influences on Israel. But above all it is the mixture, the mosaic evolving from the three movements that is typical of Israel.



To what extent did or do historical, political and religious events influence design?


To the extent that language is influenced in general by historical, political or religious events. By this I mean the language of different areas: music, architecture, visual arts and fashion, to mention just a few. This also includes design, of course, and in this respect, Israel is no different to any other country. In post-war Berlin, for example, the remains of a castle were disposed of in whose place the Palast der Republik [Palace of the Republic] then stood in the German Democratic Republic. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was torn down because it represented an enemy ideology and now the castle is being rebuilt. Perhaps the Palast will be there again in 100 years’ time. We simply don’t know.


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