Architecture in Israel

Urban design in israel

Coming Lecture & Events

Nili Portugali, Architect A.A.Dip. R.I.B.A 
Architecture is made for people
A Holistic-Phenomenological Approach to Architecture
A Case Study, Israel

NAI - The Netherlands Architecture Institute,
Rotterdam, NL
Friday 6th of October 2006 at 6.30 pm

Oxford Brookes University, Department of Architecture,
Oxford, U.K.
Monday 9th of October 2006 at 6pm

Dresden University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, Dresden, De
Wednesday 1st of November 2006 at 6pm

Rietveld Academy, Architecture Department, Amsterdam
Thursday 11st of October 2007 at 10am


The aim of this lecture is to present Portugali’s particular  interpretation of the holistic-phenomenological worldview in   theory and in practice, a worldview which stands in recent  years at the forefront of the scientific discourse as a whole and is tightly related to Buddhist philosophy, in projects she designed and built in Israel.

The first part of the presentation will present her particular interpretation of the holistic-phenomenological worldview in theory and in practice.

The second part will demonstrate how this approach, as well as her unique planning process stemming from it strictly related to the spirit of the place (based on the way things actually exist already on site) were implemented in a selected projects designed and built by her in Israel in relation to the physical, cultural and social reality of the place they were planned and built on, an Israeli reality which reflects a unique interface between the orient and the west, an interface Portugali herself represents.


The purpose of architecture, as I see it, is first and foremost to create a human environment for human beings. The real challenge of current architectural practice is to make the best use of the potential inherent in our modern technological age. Yet, modern society has lost the value of man and thus created a feeling of alienation between man and the environment.

Buildings affect our lives and the fate of the physical environment in which we live over the course of many years, and therefore their real test is the test of time.  The great buildings, villages and temples in which man feels ‘at home’ – the places we always want to return to, thus  with timeless relevance are the ones that touch our hearts, and have the power to create a deep emotional experience. Although this timeless quality exists in buildings rooted in different cultures and traditions, the emotional experience they generate is common to all people, no matter where or from what culture they come from. Thus Christopher Alexander’s basic assumption was that behind human architecture there are universal and eternal codes common to us all as human beings, and that there is absolute truth underlying beauty and comfort that reflect theinnate patterns (used by Chomsky’s terminology of the spoken language), which are already structured in our mind.

Contemporary architecture (and art) sought to dissociate themselves from the world of emotions and connect the design process to the world of ideas, thus creating a rational relation between building and man, devoid of any emotion.

The basic argument presented here is that in order to change the feeling of the environment and create places and buildings we really feel ‘at home’ and want to live in, what is needed is not a change of style or fashion, but a transformation of the mechanistic worldview underlying current thought and approaches.

I hope that by presenting an approach which tries both to identify the needs  common to us all as human beings, codes that cross cultures and link them together in harmony, and by applying a planning process which structurally responds to the identity of each cultural and social  group we build for, and  to the uniqueness of each site, I will contribute something towards replacing current conceptions and approaches whereby political motives and egotistical ambitions create the kind of architecture that forms a real threat to the physical and human environment we live in, and create places and buildings that we really feel part of and want to live in.

Nili  Portugali  is a lecturer at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology   Architecture department, Haifa and up till now at the Bezalel Academy of Art &   Design, Architectural Department, Jerusalem, and a practicing architect working   in Israel for more than 30 years. Her work has focused on both practice and   theory, and is tightly connected to the holistic-phenomenological school of   thought.  

She is a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture (A.A),  London. She studied architecture and Buddhism at the University of California in Berkeley, and worked and participated in research with Prof. Christopher Alexander at the Center for Environmental Structure in Berkeley. Her firm is involved in a variety of projects in unique areas of historic or environmental sensitivity, in urban design, architecture, landscape design and interior design, disciplines she regards as one continuous system. She has recently published her new book nominated for The RIBA International Book Award Architecture Prize 2007:
The Act of Creation and the Spirit of a Place
A Holistic-Phenomenological Approach to Architecture /Edition Axel Menges 2006

Nili Portugali is an architect working in Israel, her work is in the domain of building design, urban design, landscape design and interior design.
She is specialized in public buildings, private houses, residential, commercial and masterplans.