Brutalism and Community in Middle Class Mass Housing: Be’eri Estate, Tel Aviv, 1965–Present

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Brutalism and Community in Middle Class Mass Housing: Be’eri Estate, Tel Aviv, 1965–Present


  • Yael Allweil Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
  • Noa Zemer Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Israel


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Abstract:  Fostering functioning, place-based communities has been a major concern in architecture and planning circles since the mid-1950s revolving the issue of habitat. Using the ethics of European New Brutalism, in Israel the architectural discourse locally developed a Team 10 critique of CIAM, addressing community as the main challenge of modern housing. The failure of modern mass housing to foster viable communities is associated with, and arguably triggered by, the global shift from state-sponsored to market housing that began in the 1970s. Increasing neoliberal policies, which address housing as economic investment, further strip housing off its social role as the site for collectivity and identity. These policies sideline community in housing design. Challenging these assumptions, this study focuses on the socio-spatial dynamics of Beit Be’eri, a single-shared New Brutalist housing estate built in 1965 in Tel Aviv. Marking the beginning of the end of the Israeli welfare state, this estate was produced in the open market explicitly for well-to-do bureaucrats, civil servants, and professionals. Nevertheless, it uses the architectural and urban manifestations of New Brutalism associated with the earlier period of Brutalist state housing. The estate is cooperatively managed since its opening. It consists of a local interpretation of Team 10’s call to plan the city as a big house, the house as a small city. Although its cooperative management provokes ongoing inter-resident struggles over its shared spaces, Be’eri represents a long-lasting community, fifty-years strong. Be’eri estate forms a perplexing community, where residents’ individual ownership and middle-class identities clash in intricate practices of shared estate management. Based on archival, ethnographic, and architectural field research, this article unravels values of identity and senses of belonging that the brutalist estate provides to its residents. Fostering a critical view of the notion of community, it also examines the residents’ persistence in the context of a neoliberal housing bubble. This article portrays how the building allows for shared management of the large estate, shaping and consolidating an active community built upon every-day struggles over shared spaces. Applying Anderson’s powerful idea of the imagined community as a cultural product, we ask: Is the strong sense of collectivity in Be’eri imagined? If so, how do these imagined communities form? Upon what are they grounded? How do the intricate practices managing the estate shape its persistent middle-class identity?

Keywords:  Brutalism; community; housing estate; middle class; modern architecture; Tel Aviv

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v7i1.4811


© Yael Allweil, Noa Zemer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.