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Worker Housing as a Cultural Product: Tel Aviv’s ‘Old North’ as a Worker City

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Skyline Room


Housing is largely discussed as the product of capital and state policy, which determine where, at what cost, and for whom would housing be produced.
In the Israeli context, the cultural legacy of Tel Aviv, the ‘First Hebrew City’ and the model for Israeli urbanism to this day is one of a built environment produced by - and for – capital accumulation. The city’s significance for the production of Hebrew culture is therefore largely associated with its capitalist legacy, as counterculture/counterpoint to Israel’s dominant Labor culture (both pre and post-sovereignty).
Yet, as this study shows, urban workers in Tel Aviv have shaped it as a worker city in the 1930s-1940s, by appropriating the 1925 Geddes plan and producing semi-autonomous worker neighborhoods at the edges of the ‘new north’, constructing their own houses using DIY labor and finance based on their future wages. Worker self-housing was a major cultural product of the city in the 1930s-1940s, meeting not only worker socio-economic and political needs, but also shaping the city as a cultural representation of labor.
This paper examines historical elements of the built environment as cultural artifacts and questions cultural production of architecture and urbanism as the sole premise of capital.


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