Zvi Hecker
Born in Krakow 1931, Zvi Hecker grew up in Samarkand, studied Architecture in Technion, Haifa, painting at Avni Academy, Tel Aviv, taught Architecture at Université Laval, Quebec and Universität für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna. In 1960 he set up his practise in Tel-Aviv and in 1991 in Berlin.

In Israel he designed the City Hall, Bat Yam, Dubiner House, Ramat Gan (with Alfred Neumann and Eldar Sharon), the Palmach Museum of History, Tel Aviv (with Rafi Segal), the Military Academy in Negev, the Ramot Housing in Jerusalem, The Spiral Apartment House, Ramat Gan.

In Europe Zvi Hecker designed the Friederik Kiesler exhibition in Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Memorial Site in Linden Straße, Berlin (with Micha Ullman and Eyal Weizmann), the Jewish School in Berlin, the Jewish Cultural Centre in Duisburg and the Koningin Máximakazerne in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.

Zvi Hecker work is in the collection of Centre Pompidou in Paris, MoMA N-Y, Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Jewish Museum and Berlinische Galerie in Berlin. His work is exhibited regularly in galleries and museums.

Zvi Hecker is Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, recipient of the Deutscher Kritikerpreis für Architektur, the Rechter Architecture Prize and of the “Merentibus” Medal from the Scientific Council of Krakow Polytechnic. He lives and works in Berlin.
umbildung zvi hecker
Portrait of Zvi Hecker, Berlin (© Arkadiusz Luba)
When you were a child what did you want to be when you were older?
An artist believes he is a child and deserves love for what he is doing. He has to be naïve to think so, because he is the only one that believes in importance of his art. I don’t remember being hesitant about what I have chosen to do.
What was your favourite subject at school and when did you realise you wanted to study architecture and become an architect?
I always loved to draw. I started my education in Krakow, continued in Siberia and then in Samarkand where my teacher of drawings was taking me to draw interesting ruins of houses and Mosques. So, I can say that at the age of 13, I was an architect, even though I wasn’t aware of it, I was drawing architecture. That was the beginning of my education. The real education started at the Technion, the School of Architecture in Haifa, Israel, where my teacher was Alfred Neumann, and he was simply a genius. So, I was a student of a genius.
umbildung zvi hecker
Club Méditerranée Achziv, Israel, 1961 (© Zvi Hecker Architect)
What was your educational path?
Art is impossible to learn… well one can study something around Art. What one can find out, if one is lucky is an example. I was fortunate to meet Alfred Neumann and to found out through him that ideas are rare phenomena, but possible. I think, that is what one can find out in school of architecture, an example. You have to be lucky to find a good example to follow.
Your first works investigate the space by the sub-division of it into modules: the holistic studies of assembled non-orthogonal units, that shape the space as a whole. How has your architectural practice evolved since then?
The process of design shows actually that we don’t know what to do. We start with something not very clear, in hope to develop into something meaningful: sometimes it does develop and sometimes it doesn’t. It is not so important where you start, but it is important where you finish. The design of a building needs some order that will satisfy our intelligence. If it happens, it means that the project is structured correctly. We can later destroy the order, but we cannot destroy something that does not exist. Frank Lloyd Wright maintained that geometry is like a scaffolding to the building, so at the end, it can be taken off. I start sometimes with a very precise geometry, and in the end I disregard it: Precision in architecture doesn’t have to be shown but rather discovered.
umbildung zvi hecker
Dubiner Apartment House, Ramat Gan, Israel, 1963 (© Zvi Hecker Architect)
Architects: Zvi Hecker, Alfred Neumann, Eldar Sharon
What particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?
The process of design could be compared to the care of a baby. Some believe an architectural idea is the answer to all the design questions but in my opinion, the idea, the “baby”, is only the beginning. The aim of the design process is to let this “baby” speak to us, to disclose its character.
How do other creative fields influence your architectural work?
Somehow, I have more in common with artists than with architects. If you look carefully at the Spiral House, you can see that its stone cladding is inspired by the work of the artist Mario Merz. After studying at the Technion, I studied painting at the Art Academy in Tel Aviv. My friends were mostly artists, so I was probably more influenced by artists than architects.
umbildung zvi hecker
Dubiner Apartment House, Ramat Gan, Israel, 1963 (© Zvi Hecker Architect)
Architects: Zvi Hecker, Alfred Neumann, Eldar Sharon
The key features of your architecture.
Walls surrounding people.
How do you remember your teaching activity in the USA? How do you remember those experiences?
I was teaching many times in the United States, in California, in Texas, in Saint Louis, and then in Canada in Montreal and Quebec City. I don’t think I was a real pedagogue, but the spirit was good. Even Aalto had a problem with teaching at MIT, when he answered students’ question by: I don’t know, because he was paid to know. On the other hand, Louis Kahn had all the time for a boring student knowing that as a teacher he is required to be patient.
umbildung zvi hecker
Jewish School Berlin, Germany, 1995 (Ph. © Michael Krüger)
I personally remember your office in Berlin as full of drawings of your projects. Most of them are like paintings, pieces of art. When it comes to shape an idea into a project, what is for you the importance of sketching designs by hand?
Read my: “I draw because I have to think”
Your architecture studio has been based in Berlin since 1991. Is there something in particular about this city that fascinates you and continues to influence your professional work?
Berlin until the 90‘s was an island in the sea of standardized banality and nowadays banality became a standard. Actually, I didn’t choose Berlin, but Berlin chose me, because I was awarded first prize in the international competition for the Jewish School, the first after the Holocaust. So, I had to open the office and to try to adapt my design to the German building codes. Then I won another competition and so on. This was an accident, like everything in life.
umbildung zvi hecker
Jewish School Berlin, Germany, 1995 (Ph. © Michael Krüger)
In the nascent state of Israel during the fifties there was a consequential building boom. It was surely a good occasion for a young architect like yourself to start practicing the profession. In your opinion, what are the necessary conditions to practice architecture today?
Like always to have a good client.
Along the way, what is the best advice you have received, and is there one piece of advice in particular which you would share with young architects and architecture students?
Playfulness is a serious game.
umbildung zvi hecker
Laboratories for the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering Technion, Haifa, Israel, 1964-67 (© Zvi Hecker Architect)
Architects: Zvi Hecker, Alfred Neumann
Is there a book which is of particular importance to you as an architect?
Diaries of artists, from Eugène Delacroix to Robert Smithson.
Who was the most influential person in your architectural education and why?
Alfred Neumann, a talent of Renaissance proportion.
umbildung zvi hecker
Ramot Housing II, Jerusalem, Israel, 1982 (© Zvi Hecker Architect)
A piece of advice:
Before rejecting common knowledge show that you know it.
umbildung zvi hecker
Synagogue Military Academy Campus, Negev Desert, Israel, 1971 (Ph. © Henri Hutter)
Architects: Zvi Hecker, Alfred Neumann (Ph. Henry Hutter)
umbildung zvi hecker
Ramot housing, Jerusalem, Israel, 1971-1975 (Ph. © Zvi Hecker Architect)
umbildung zvi hecker
Bat Yam City Hall, Bat Yam, Israel, 1961-1963 (Ph. © Zvi Hecker Architect)
Architects: Zvi Hecker, Alfred Neumann, Eldar Sharon (Ph. Zeev Herz)
2020 © Umbildung