Israel Demographics and Architecture

Demography and economic geography. – State of Southwest Asia. The population increased by 13% between 2007 and 2014, reaching 7,822,107 residents, according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs). A constant immigration movement, mostly of Jewish confession (16,558 in 2012 alone), and a considerable fertility rate (3 children per woman in 2013) weigh positively on the demographic dynamics. The latter figure is only partially explained by the contribution of the Palestinian community, whose relative weight has grown by 0.7% in the last ten years, fixing the power ratio at 75.2% of Jews compared to 20.6 % Palestinians. Within the Jewish population, communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews have a great demographic impact, whose prolificacy is at least double the national average. Part of Israeli citizens of Jewish confession live in settlements, 341,400 in the West Bank, 196,400 in East Jerusalem and 18,900 in the Golan Heights (2014). In the last fifteen years, the total number of Israeli settlers has increased by nearly 100,000, in proportion with greater intensity in the West Bank, where the incidence since 2000 has increased by 70%. Israel’s urban geography itself is heavily influenced by the conflict with the Palestinians, as Jerusalem is the proportionally growing city, with a population nearly doubling over the past twenty years.

Economic conditions. – According to smber, the economy is strongly linked to the tertiary sector, which employs 77.1% of the workforce. State investment and private initiative led to the rise of high-tech firms, which, during the first decade of the 21st century, drove Israel’s economic expansion, with GDP growing steadily around 5 % and a substantial increase in per capita income available. The success of high technology is mainly linked to the electronics, information technology, biotechnology and telecommunications sectors, stimulated by the high levels of education and the positive effects in terms of patents of the strong state investments in the military field. Other important items are cut diamonds, pharmaceuticals, fruit and vegetables and plastics. The policies to close the budget deficit led to an increase in unemployment, which stood at 12.7%. Energy dependence from abroad has decreased thanks to the exploitation of the two largest offshore natural gas fields discovered in recent years. Despite this, energy resources are among the main items of Israeli imports, together with cereals, making up a trade balance that tends to be negative. The United States is the main trading partner, especially in terms of exports. In the current difficult geopolitical context, military spending is understandably high (5.7% of GDP), with 176,500 professional soldiers and almost half a million reservists, although the general positive trend of the economy has almost halved the impact on the GDP.

Architecture. – Thanks to the intense cultural and professional exchanges with Europe and the United States and the contributions of Jewish designers residing all over the world, Israel is one of the most interesting and international countries from an architectural point of view. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, its two main cities, represent the first the ancient and religious history of the country, the second the recent one, linked to the very constitution of the modern state.

The extraordinary archaeological remains of the past, such as, for example, the fortress of Masada in the desert of the Dead Sea or the ruins of Herod’s palace along the Mediterranean coast, now restored and enhanced for tourism purposes, are flanked by numerous and qualified recent examples that make Israel a significant point of reference on the contemporary architectural scene. Tel Aviv in particular, one of the liveliest and most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East, includes the so-called White City, almost exclusively made up of rationalist buildings built in the 1930s and 1940s: a rare example of a Bauhaus-style urban ensemble, it is no coincidence that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Tel Aviv, among other things, wi-fi for the entire metropolitan area and the card for digital services, which allows direct contact with public administrations and real-time updates on the services offered, to which more than 100,000 residents have signed up. In addition to making the city progressively more attentive to the needs of its residents, one of the main objectives of the project is the transformation of Tel Aviv into a large international financial, cultural and tourist center. The city currently boasts the largest number of museums per capita in the world: over 20. Among the many significant buildings, the Tel Aviv Museum of art (2011), by the American architect Preston Scott Cohen; the Peace Peres House (2009), built by Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas in Jaffa; the Design Museum (2010) in Holon, designed by Ron Arad within a new cultural area in the eastern part of the city; the library and research center in memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (2010) killed in 1995, the work of the Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. In Jerusalem we remember the Yad Vashem, a monumental museum of the Holocaust, designed by Safdie himself and inaugurated in 2005, and the expansion of the Israel Museum (2010) by James Carpenter Design Associates and Efrat-Kowalsky Architects. The first Israeli museum dedicated to architecture was conceived and commissioned by the director Amos Gitai at the studio of his father, the architect Munio Gitai Weinraub (1909-1970), in Haifa (2012).

Among the many other recent examples made in Tel Aviv we should still mention: the residential tower on Rothschild Boulevard (2009-15) designed by Richard Meier & Partners; the BSR 3 complex (2013), two towers housing offices and shops in the Bnei Brak district, by Yashar Architects; the Porter School of environmental studies (2014) of TAU (Tel Aviv University), the largest university in the country, the work of Geotectura + Chen Architects + Axelrod Grobman Architects, the first Israeli ecological building to have obtained the LEED Platinum certificate (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Also of note are: the Orthodox school in Remle, by Dan and Hila Israelevitz Architects with Simon Amsis in Jerusalem, inaugurated in 2010; Sderot station (2010), 7 km east of Gaza, on the new line between Ashkelon and Beer-Sheva, by Ami Shinar / Amir Mann Architects and Planners, in Sderot; the Tirat Carmel library (2013), at the foot of Mount Carmel, by Schwartz Besnosoff Architects; the articulated apartment tower Z Design Building (2013) in Holon, not far from the aforementioned Design Museum and the addition to the Shenkar Campus with the Pernik building (2014), which houses an academy and related administrative offices, in Ramat Gan, both of the architects Ami Shinar and Amir Mann.

Israel Demographics and Architecture

About the author