Social Construction: Modern Architecture in British Mandate Palestine

The Yale School of Architecture Gallery will host Social Construction: Modern Architecture in British Mandate Palestine, a traveling exhibition previously displayed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The exhibition, curated by Oren Sagiv, Ada Karmi-Melamede, and Dan Price, examines a period of modern architecture that emerged during the British Mandate period in Palestine (1917-1948). This particular interpretation of the International Style established a cohesive vernacular that not only altered the architectural and urban context but also revealed the social values that helped to adapt modernism to the region. 


Archival image of modern urban development in Palestine
Archival image of modern urban development in Palestine © Yale University and Ali John Pierre Artemel

Social Construction: Modern Architecture in British Mandate Palestine

Israel’s cities are changing minute by minute. New residential towers, commercial centers, and public transit projects transform not only the urban landscape, but also the urban experience. Though it is still possible to see traditional shop windows and low-rise apartment blocks whose facades evolved gradually over the decades, these already have a nostalgic flavor to them. They have been overtaken by construction on a radically different scale, as if a new city altogether has been superimposed on what was. Perhaps this explains the parallel endeavor to meticulously restore certain historic buildings – not as part of the contemporary urban texture, but as architectural rarities, which underscores even more the sharp divide between then and now. 

Architecture reflects the values and aspirations of a society. Walking around a historical city, we are able to intuit the social and cultural intentions that produced it. The Jewish architects active in British Mandatory Palestine during the 1930s were part of the Modernist Movement of the period, but they adapted its architectural language to the local climate and materials and to existing urban master plans. At the same time, in the spirit of this particular place and moment in history, architecture served to redefine the boundaries between the individual and the collectivity. The unique modernist style that evolved came to be identified with the birth of a state. 

Contemporary architects Ada Karmi-Melamede and Dan Price have devoted more than two decades to studying the architectural legacy of Palestine during the British Mandate. With the help of colleagues and students, they gathered a wealth of archival material and produced hundreds of original drawings to analyze the buildings presented in their book Architecture in Palestine during the British Mandate, 1917–1948. Previously exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the original exhibition focused on the book’s central chapter, investigating the components that made up the local modernist idiom of the 1930s in order to better understand its underlying philosophy, as well as its formal language.  

The original exhibition, organized by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in 2016, has been adapted for the Yale School of Architecture Gallery with the addition of two sections - Architectural Precedents and Hybrid Modernism - that chronologically bookend the contents of the original exhibition. These sections looks at the early and late years of the British Mandate, transitional periods that were characterized by extreme political and social uncertainty that produced a hybrid architecture that fluctuated between contradictory traditional and modernist concepts. 


  • Oren Sagiv, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Ada Karmi Melamede, Author, Architecture in Palestine during the British mandate: 1917 - 1948 
  • Dan Price, Author, Architecture in Palestine during the British mandate: 1917 - 1948 


  • Sivan Eran Levian, Head of Travelling Exhibitions, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Noga Eliash-Zalmanovich, Associate Curator, Stella Fischbach Department of Modern Art, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Tania Coen-Uzzielli, Head of Curatorial Affairs, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Jonathan Canetti, Assistant Curator, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Ariel Armoni, Exhibition Design, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Alfie Koetter, Director of Exhibitions, Yale School of Architecture 
  • Alison Walsh, Exhibitions Coordinator, Yale School of Architecture 

Exhibition Design 

  • Oren Sagiv, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 
  • Eyal Rozen, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 

Acknowledgements:  Original exhibition organized and produced by the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 

The Yale School of Architecture’s exhibition program is supported in part by the James Wilder Green Dean’s Resource Fund, the Kibel Foundation Fund, the Nitkin Family Dean’s Discretionary Fund in Architecture, the Pickard Chilton Dean’s Resource Fund, the Paul Rudolph Publication Fund, the Robert A.M. Stern Fund, the Rutherford Trowbridge Memorial Fund, the Fred Koetter Exhibitions Fund, and the School of Architecture Exhibitions Fund.