UNTIL his family emigrated to Israel in 1958, 10 years after the Jewish states improbable birth, Alexander Maller suffocated under a tyranny of pernicious silence in Communist Romania.
When he was 15, his parents grabbed a small window of opportunity and fled to an economically depressed yet exotic land that promised something far sweeter.
It took a while, but Maller found his voice in the fledgling Jewish nation. He decided to become an architect and construct a country from the ground up.
Why architecture? he repeats, bemused eyes peering behind his Harry Potter-style glasses. Because I like it. As a child I was fascinated by buildings, which may sound a bit peculiar. I loved walking the streets and looking at them.
His uncle, a well-known architect in Romania, regularly gave the boy books on the subject. And I could draw, Maller adds. That combination worked well for me.
Mallers avocation took flight in the land of milk and honey, where Eastern European masters had already left their mark and open arid fields begged for completion.
His family lived in Tel Aviv, nicknamed The White City in honor of the white Bauhaus buildings that dominated the architectural landscape.
By the time he took the Israeli equivalent of the college entrance exams, Mallers inquisitive heart was firmly set on architecture.
He was accepted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and studied under exalted professors who came to Palestine from Germany and Eastern Europe in the 1920s and 1930s.
Many belonged to the Bauhaus school of architecture or represented equally avant-garde movements.
In Israel, the emphasis was on building a new country, Maller says in his 18th-floor apartment overlooking the snow-capped mountains embracing Denver, his home since 2009.
Architecture was highly regarded and held in high esteem. It was a badly needed, practical profession. You could work on remarkable projects: entire cities, towns, neighborhoods.
Because Israel was a new country, there was a general perception that its architecture should also champion modernity. Upon Ben-Gurions urging, Arik Sharon made a master plan for the country, which sounds ridiculous, says Maller, 68. The politicians certainly never expected this.