Ph.D Thesis

Ph.D StudentYizhar Dikla
SubjectBuild Your Own Home: A Socio-Cultural Reading of the
productive user
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor PROFESSOR EMERITUS Rachel Kallus
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


The research deals with the active resident’s relevance to contemporary housing conditions. It offers a new architectural perspective of the socio-cultural dimensions of housing. The research analyzes housing transformation within the theorized framework of the User, a structured concept of modern architecture whose genealogic evolution is grounded in historical conditions. It questions the emergence of the 'productive user' within the radicalization of modernity, globalization and market liberalization. As a critical concept, the User enables a dialectic reading of conditions vis-à-vis architectural thought, form and knowledge, thus addressing disciplinary questions of authority, expertise, and societal roles. The framework developed for this research grounds the research questions conceptually, historically, and spatially.

 The first chapter explores the concept of 'participation', developed in the 1960s and 1970s as part of postwar modern architectural discourse. Based on analysis of architectural material and academic literature, it explains the fundamentals of participation as an architectural idea. It also explains how such ideas were used to redefine architecture's role within complex systems and power relations. 

The second chapter tracks the rise of the 'productive user' in Israel since the 1970s. It explains that construction within the gradual process of housing privatization. Institutional restructuring and conflicting ideologies produced new development frameworks,  using ’self-built’ schemes as a central housing tool. As an early phase of neo-liberalization, it also presents the reshaping of the architectural role in space production.

The third chapter is an ethnographic inquiry into individual practices of home-building, and analyzes the home as a site of cultural production. It explains how, through social negotiation and within coordinates of virtual and actual sites, knowledge, and an agent, the productive resident is formed. Analysis also reveals the multi-faceted dimensions of architecture within the field, shaping production both directly and indirectly.

The findings explain the emergence of the 'productive user' as part of a gradual process of housing privatization and the restructuring of spatial production mechanisms. The research explains how the rolling-back of the State and the delegation of responsibility to the users gave rise to individual home production as a form of deep social management. These conditions indicate that the effect of architecture is expressed not only through direct planning practices, but is also influence the propagation of various types of discourse in production mechanisms.

The study offers a contribution to academic research in various areas. It elaborates on an unmapped era of Israeli architecture and links it to neo-liberal transformations. It presents insights about the 1980s’ local shifts in historical and sociological research. Within the interdisciplinary field of housing studies it links home-making practices with political issues of housing management. However, its main contribution is the offering of a new research methodology for assessing the dialectic relationship between architectural thought and its structural locations.