Jerusalem’s nascent design scene is small but certainly determined

Outdoor night time image, quiet road, grass lawns, green neon floor standing letters, spelling 'NO MAN IS AN ISLAND' , trees, dark sky, silhouette trees & landscape in the distance
The sixth edition of Jerusalem Design Week tackled the topic, ‘Islands: an inward exploration of design as a bridge between social, political and cultural boundaries’.
(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Israel is a country of contrasts. While the 108-year-old city of Tel Aviv has always looked to the future, attracting creative residents with its liberal culture and beachside location, the ancient city of Jerusalem is anchored firmly in its past.

So when six years ago, the Jerusalem Development Authority and Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage decided to sponsor a design week, the city was presented with a unique opportunity. ‘We wanted to show another side to the city and bring as many people as possible to experience Jerusalem as we see it,’ says Ran Wolf, the managing director of Jerusalem Design Week. ‘Contrary to popular belief, Jerusalem is a leading city in design and creativity. Jerusalem is full of young and creative people.’

Today the perception of Jerusalem is changing. The city is gaining a reputation as a centre for tech start-ups, craft beer, boutique hotels and a lively nightlife scene that unites its diverse citizens. The emerging design scene – bolstered by its world-renowned design school the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design – is certainly small but also determined. Working out of a series of studios in the city’s Talbiya district, a group of nine local designers called the Jerusalem Design Collective are a sign that young designers are increasingly finding reasons to stay.

Stone rustic floor, stone arch walls with black framed window, large interactive, grid-like mural made from 144 notepads. on a white background, metal staircase

Local studio Grotesca, inspired by the carpet design, created an interactive, grid-like mural made from 144 notepads. Visitors were encouraged to peel off one of the 30000 notepad pages to reveal a new design underneath

(Image credit: TBC)

‘Being a designer in Jerusalem is a statement. It's about being different and thinking differently,’ says designer Daniel Nahmias, the collective’s founder. ‘Jerusalem is a multicultural cosmopolitan city. While multiculturalism has in the past been a disadvantage in Jerusalem, it has become a distinct advantage. In the coming years, you will be able to see more design centres, more platforms for innovation and creativity. It is a city that invests resources in the design and art community, much more than other cities, with the understanding that the creative class is the engine and key for the city's development.’

The city’s growing design week is helping to nurture this emerging network. Spread across four venues in the city’s affluent Talbiya neighbourhood, this year’s 150 participating designers tackled the broad topic of ‘Islands: an inward exploration of design as a bridge between social, political and cultural boundaries’. The theme is not only a comment on the ongoing conflict over Israel’s borders, but also on wider international political events.

‘With Brexit, Trump’s wall and the mega-portals of the web, the world seems to be closing off into imagined comfort zones,’ explain two of the design week’s curators, Tal Erez and Anat Safran. ‘Facing these changes, designers hold great power: from the potential of creating alternative worlds to the reconstruction of identities.’

Interior image of the museum off natural history, white tiled floor, black framed glass display units with variety of bird species, white statue in white display unit centre, neutral walls, peacock with feathers displayed on the far wall

At the Museum of Natural History, product designs by recent graduates of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design were blended in with the museum’s displays in an attempt to create a ‘visual-conceptual conversation between the two’.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Daytime aerial shot of Hansen house, pale stone building, surrounding tall trees and shrubs, roads, cars, clear sky

At Hansen House – a former leprosarium that is now a bustling centre for design, media and technology – a series of installations celebrated the late curator Yizchak Gaon, each inspired by one of his legendary exhibitions.

(Image credit: Yonatan Strier)

Museum of Islamic art pieces, four dark brown and two beige coloured ‘Revolve’ vessels on a white background

‘Revolve’ vessels, by Talia Mukmel, on view the Museum of Islamic Art.

(Image credit: Ayber Gallery)

Interior room, lime stone check floor, white walls with black skirting boards, centre piece display wall built from mycelium (or mushroom) brick

Netherlands-based designer Maurizio Montalti teamed up with Israeli designer Rami Tareef on a wall built from mycelium (or mushroom) brick. As the funghi grow and intertwine, the wall is in a constant state of flux – a reflection on the borders of Jerusalem. The limestone floor tiles engraved with Arabic and Hebrew letters signal that language could be a bridge rather than being a barrier between people. © Maurizio Montalti and Rami Tareef

(Image credit: TBC)

White textured wall, in a three square wall art pieces of satellite imagery, back lights behind images

A series of satellite images from Instagram account The Jefferson Grid were displayed across the length of one of the telephone exchange’s walls. Conceived in the 18th century, the grid is still one of the prominent landscape features of America’s mid-west and west coast as revealed by the photographs

(Image credit: TBC)

Grey floor and background, four beige stone and one blue and white design ceramic vessels on display

‘We Ferment’ ceramic vessels, by Rotem Gruber

(Image credit: TBC)

Barber shop front, grey concrete floor, light stone brick walls, black blind shutters to the right, grey drain pipe, faceless people cut-outs, smartly dressed male, barber cutting a smartly dressed customer placed in the window, side table cut-out to the left of the doorway

Across the city, the Jerusalem Design Collective worked with a series of local businesses on the city’s Azza Street to create design interventions within their premises. Pictured, a barbershop designed by Noa Razer Shanit Adam and Shani Avivi.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

White rustic wall, grey concrete floor, snail-shaped carpe suspended from a wooden pole, draped down, small opening in the wall to the top right

The International Teams programme paired global design talent with local manufacturers, resulting in an array of intriguing works. Omer Polak created a snail-shaped carpet in collaboration with a local dye workshop  – the only one in the world that creates an azure dye made from the Hexaplex trunculus snails, a species that is only found on the islands of Israel.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Dark room, blue light casting on rustic white brick wall with an ethereal scale model of an enormous 350m-deep crack

Israeli ceramic artist Jonathan Hope and Danish information designer Peter Ørntoft created an ethereal scale model of an enormous 350m-deep crack that has formed in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Circular, colourful art piece designs on a white background

The exhibition ‘Repositioning’, curated by Alon Razgour at the Museum of Islamic Art, saw 12 artists create new artworks (including Koby Sibony, pictured) inspired by one particular piece from the museum’s collection

(Image credit: TBC)

White background, a wooden art piece vessel from Ariel Lavian’s ‘My garden – Spring’ series

Students, graduates and teachers at Bezalel’s MDES programme in industrial design presented their take on autarky – an ideal economic unit that supplies all of its own needs without relying on outside sources. Pictured, a vessel from Ariel Lavian’s ‘My garden – Spring’ series made using materials sourced entirely from his studio’s garden

(Image credit: TBC)

White rustic floor and walls, Dark grey and colourful Lego models of a large and a small house, colourful Lego pieces scattered on the floor around the houses

'Opposite', an interactive Lego house was designed by local studio Magenta, who exhibited at Hansen House, Center for Design, Media and Technology.

(Image credit: Lee Zakai)

Inside view of the interactive Lego installation, dark interior with light coming through the window openings

Inside the interactive Lego installation, 'Opposite'.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Dimly lit interior of Hansen House’s courtyard, stone brick floor, carpet rug made from 12,000 red and yellow pencils with spotlight shining over it

In the Hansen House’s courtyard, Dutch collective We Make Carpets installed a carpet comprising 12,000 pencils.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Interior rustic room with yellow ceiling light casting light across the room, 100 lightweight coats from organza and lightweight plastics suspended in the air by metal rods attached to the floor, large wall mirror on the right wall, reflecting room contents

The ‘Fashion Island’ show saw local design studio the Muslin Brothers create 100 lightweight coats from organza and lightweight plastics. Based upon the original US army coat that was used during the Vietnam War, the garments were hung from poles mounted in sand. Drenched in an obscure yellow light, visitors were invited to try the coats on as they walked through the surreal desert-like space.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Muriel of artist and writers colourful work, on a neutral board background

At the former Bezeq telephone exchange, the ‘Graphic Island’ show directed by Guy Saggee and Michal Sahar functioned as a temporary news desk where designers, reporters, photographers, writers and illustrators gathered each day to produce a daily publication. Produced on a traditional printing press, the results were used to create a mural that documented the week.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

Workshop image, dark haired bearded male designer, using a blue drill to make a wooden frame, wooden worktop with tools, wooden board in the backdrop with tools attached, blurred background of the surrounding room

At the ‘Product Island’ exhibition, Itay Ohaly challenged designers to make functional off-the-cuff products using only the limited materials available in the room.

(Image credit: Dor Kedmi)

White textured wall, black worktop, small wooden board with six wooden and glass objects on display

The Department of Inclusive Industrial Design at Hadassah Academic College exhibited a series of sculptural wooden objects inspired by wood processing techniques from three ‘cultural islands’: Japan, Africa and the US. The results demonstrate the cultural religious, philosophic and design aspects of each location

(Image credit: TBC)


For more information, visit the Jerusalem Design Week website