Handel, Dan and Alona Nitzan-Shiftan. "Industrial Complexes, Foreign Expertise and the Imagining of a New Levant." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 4, Number 2 (pp. 343-364), edited by Peter Christensen, Bristol: Intellect, 2015.
In the 1980s, Israeli industrialist Stef Wertheimer proposed transforming the eastern Mediterranean into a transnational economic bloc that would overcome territorial conflicts through shared prosperity. This vision grew out of his extensive correspondence during the 1970s with local and international experts. In a grand scheme he called the ‘New Levant’, multiple ‘industrial gardens’ – industrial enclaves for entrepreneurial development – would accommodate technological incubators in a sachlich (matter-of-fact) architectural environment. Several examples of the industrial garden model have been built in and around Israel. This article argues that the ‘New Levant’ scheme on the one hand echoed a contemporary geopolitical divide between oil and non-oil producing countries, and, on the other, a moment of proto-globalization of national economies in the region. The article further aligns this vision of a Levantine network with scholarly depictions of the historic Levant – a territory in which extraterritorial capitulation, pragmatism and foreign expertise facilitated transnational economic exchange. Furthermore, it is suggested that the architecture of the industrial gardens spatially articulates economic processes. The economy-driven architecture and planning of the ‘New Levant’ thus became an efficient vehicle for negotiating national and cultural boundaries. As such, it allows for a critical reading of the region’s globalization and emerging identities.
Keywords: American expertise; Israel; Levant; economy; industrial gardens; planning