Jews in Modern Architecture
After a Late Start
If we were to look for a “Jewish architecture” as we might look for a “Jewish literature,” with a characteristic style, technique, spirit, and social function, we should not find it; it is not there to be found. Perhaps only in the most recent decades, with social planning in Israel, and the building of new synagogues and community centers in America, has the question of what could be specifically Jewish in architecture begun to be even seriously considered. But if we are just looking for Jews practicing architecture in general, then it is obvious that, after a tardy beginning in the 19th century, there is now, suddenly, a bewilderingly large number of Jews active in every form and function of building.
In New York, more than a quarter of those listed in the telephone company’s Red Book as “architects” are probably Jews. Most of these, of course, are engaged in small commercial practice, the alteration of stores and flats, etc., etc. But leaf through the encyclopedic four-volume work Forms and Functions of 20th Century Architecture, which is put out by Columbia University under the editorship of Talbot Hamlin, and you will catch a glimpse of the dimensions of the Jewish contribution to architecture in this century. Forms and Functions aims at covering the entire range of modern building throughout the world, and gives examples of excellence chosen by the authorities responsible for the different chapters. Volume III, for instance, contains chapters on the Individual House, the Apartment House, Hotels, Camps and Dormitories, Mass Shelter, Residential Communities, Acoustics, Churches and Synagogues, Theaters, Day Schools, Boarding Schools, Colleges, Libraries, Museums, Capitols, and Courthouses; and every chapter contains illustrations of about a dozen examples of each kind of edifice or construction.
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