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Archive of modern architecture pioneer returns to Israel after three-year legal battle

Al Mansfeld was a pioneer of modern Israeli architecture; thousands of his plans, drawings, photographs and sketches must be returned to Israel within six months according to new mediation agreement.

By  Feb.27, 2012 | 3:03 AM
'Ramat Hadar' residential apartment block -
The 'Ramat Hadar' residential apartment block. Photo by Keren Or / Mansfeld-Kehat architects.

The archive of Al Mansfeld, one of the pioneers of modern Israeli architecture, is to be returned to Israel after a three-year legal battle between Mansfeld's family and that of his one-time business partner.

Thousands of plans, drawings, photographs and sketches by Mansfeld - an Israel Prize laureate and one of the designers of the Israel Museum - were taken out of the country and displayed abroad by the son of the partner, Munio Weinraub.

According to a mediation agreement signed Sunday, the materials must be returned to Israel within six months. Some of them will be transfered to the National Architecture Archive in the Tel Aviv Museum.

The archive contains plans and other documents relating to works by Mansfeld from 1937 to 1959, including public buildings on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Givat Ram campus, the dining room at Kibbutz Hazorea, and Zim passenger liners.

After Weinraub and Mansfeld dismantled their partnership, they waged a legal battle over the archive, but eventually agreed that they would retain joint ownership.

Most of the archive was moved to the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, where Mansfeld was dean of the architecture faculty.

After Weinraub died in 1970, his son, film director Amos Gitai, took the archive out of the country on a number of occasions and exhibited its contents. Since the 1990s, some of Mansfeld's original manuscripts have been displayed, for example, at the Pompidou Center in Paris and at the Technical University in Munich, Germany - without the permission of Mansfeld's son Michael, who is also an architect.

Mansfeld's name was omitted in the case of many of the materials exhibited abroad, which were presented solely as Weinraub's work and as owned by Gitai alone.

When Michael Mansfeld discovered that the archival plans and documents had been removed illegally from the Israel State Archive some years ago, he launched a legal battle to bring them back.

According to the agreement signed yesterday, Gitai will return the materials to Israel and will give Mansfeld the items which belong to him. Some materials are to remain in Paris, but Mansfeld's name will be added to them.

"Dad wanted his materials to stay in Israel, to serve Israeli students and scholars, and to remain near the buildings he designed," Michael Mansfeld told Haaretz, adding that he felt an injustice to both him and his father had been done when they were taken away without permission.

Along with the items to be returned to Israel, the younger Mansfeld also intends to give additional documents and designs attesting to Mansfeld's 40-year career in Israel to the National Architecture Archive.

Gitai plans to open an architecture museum in his father's Haifa studio, where some of his father's and Mansfeld's joint archive will be displayed.

"Historic justice has been done here and I am glad the affair has ended to everyone's satisfaction. I retain most of the archive and I hope from now on everyone will work to preserve the memory of the architects and will not persist in being unnecessarily stubborn," Gitai said yesterday.

Al Mansfeld, who died in 2004, was born in 1912 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and began his architecture studies in Berlin in 1931. After the Nazi rise to power he fled to Paris where he completed his studies. In 1935 he emigrated to Israel and moved to Haifa.

In 1959, after breaking up his partnership with Weinraub, he opened an independent firm. In 1966 he shared the Israel Prize with Dora Gad for their design of the Israel Museum.

Weinraub was born in Poland in 1909 and studied in the Bauhaus school in Dessau and Berlin, Germany. He came to live in Israel in 1934, and also settled in Haifa. After his partnership with Mansfeld ended, he also went his way and taught at the Technion. He died in 1970.

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