Dr. Shelly Cohen explores the Israeli space. The Local series of exhibitions was curated by Cohen and various associates in the Architect’s House gallery, and was displayed there for over a decade. It was one of the main instigators of a new Israeli discourse that critiqued the often neglected social and political aspects of Israeli architecture. Her book “Living Forms: Architecture and Society in Israel”, co-edited with Arch. Tula Amir, combines social and architectural theory with everyday living reality. It has become a popular source for citations and a primary reader in many schools of architecture and design. Similarly, both the edited “Safe Haven: Urban Civil Defense”, and the exhibition at the Genia Schreiber university gallery, have explored how security considerations affect planning procedures, and how residential secure space (Mamad) requirements affect the everyday lives of Israeli residents. Cohen’s research is regularly published across various platforms: in over 20 themed architecture exhibitions, in edited books that became basic readers, in academic articles, and in books that affect the public agenda.
Cohen’s PhD dissertation explores the connection between ethical, social, and aesthetic theories. It focuses on a relatively new trend in architecture: large numbers of architects are now becoming increasingly involved in social issues and projects. These architects join municipal or civil initiatives to plan and build projects for Israel’s marginalized groups. Their aim is to meet the various planning needs sorely neglected by authorities and the marketplace. It is a recent and notable development in Israel and the West.
In addition, Cohen develops unique formats for teaching and research: a recent study, conducted by students of COMAS’ School of Design and Innovation, traces the recent changes in the living forms and habits of Israeli families. It explores the changes experienced by households, families, and tenants in a very uniform housing market and culture. The study was presented in a seminar themed “The New Family and The Apartment,” organized by Cohen and Prof. Carmela Jacoby-volk. A short field study at first conducted as part of COLMAN’s curator’s workshop, it grew in to the exhibition “Exposed: 1950’s-1970’s Buildings In Today’s Urban Environment,” which explored novel bottom-up uses of iconic modernist Tel-Aviv structures. A cooperation between Cohen, Prof. Jacoby-Volk and MArch. Rebecca Sternberg led to an international workshop titled “Use-Re-Use: Adaptive Modernism” at the Venice biennale. As an academic instructor, Cohen’s innovative workshops (such as “Following Users”) explore new teaching formats and have contributed greatly to the Laboratory for Urban Innovation, part of COMAS’ Master’s program in design, innovation and entrepreneurship.