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April 15, 1994 - Image 65

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-04-15

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politically, Tel Aviv and the In-
ternational Style were made for
each other. Founded in 1909,
Tel Aviv, unlike European
cities, had plenty of open space
on which to build and no en-
trenched architectural style.
The low height; simple, hor-
izontal lines; flat roofs; and un-
adorned white, grey, beige and
pink stucco facades comple-
mented the flat, sandy terrain.
The simple lines, balconies and
functional, flexible layouts ap-
pealed to the Jewish pioneers
who denounced ostentation and
materialism and were commit-
ted to building a modern, secu-
lar, democratic, socialist society
that would provide healthy,
comfortable living conditions
for its members.
Despite the natural fit of
style, place and values, it was
history that determined Tel
Aviv's architectural destiny. Be-
tween 1929 and 1935, some 70,
000 German-Jewish refugees
more than doubled the city's
population, and they all need-
ed housing. Among the refugees
were a group of German Jew-
ish, Bauhaus-trained architects.
Palestinian-Jewish archi-
tects who had studied abroad
at the Bauhaus or with Le Cor-
busier, Bruno Taut and others,
returned home. Altogether, 19
Bauhaus architects (as they are
called in Israel) worked in
Palestine during the '30s, build-
ing street after street of Inter-
national Style cooperative
apartment houses and munic-
ipal buildings.
Had they been able to prac-

Right and below:
Style apartments
in Tel Aviv.

Bauhaus St 1 e

Tel Aviv,
`the White
is saving its


n the 1930s, when In-
ternational Style archi-
tecture defined the
burgeoning metropolis,
Jewish poets and writ-
ers called Tel Aviv
"the White City." To old-
timers, it's beginning to
look that way again.
For the past few
years, a preservation
boom has been trans-
forming the scruffy, 250-acre
residential and business section
known as "Lev Tel Aviv" (the
heart of Tel Aviv).
Cranes, scaffolding and ce-
ment mixers are everywhere as
developers rehabilitate what
were originally three-story
apartment houses designed by
Jewish architects who had stud-
ied with Walter Gropius, Mies
van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and

Maria Stieglitz is a freelance

writer in Sea Cliff, N.Y.

other modern masters.
From the late '20s to the ear-
ly '40s, some 4,000 Interna-
tional Style buildings were built
in Tel Aviv, more than in any
other city in the world. About
3,500 International Style build-
ings still stand, but until the
past few years, most had been
bastardized or neglected.
Since 1990, however, the city
has designated 1,000 as "build-
ings to be preserved," and about
150 have been rehabbed. To in-
crease local and international
awareness of Tel Aviv's unique
architectural heritage, the mu-
nicipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo will
host an international confer-
ence on "International Style
Architecture in Tel Aviv" May
The conference is jointly
sponsored by the municipality,
UNESCO, and the Tel Aviv
Foundation. ,
Geographically, socially and

tice in Europe or the United
States, Arieh Sharon, Ze'ev
Rechter, Shmuel Barkai and
many others would be famous
today, says Tel Aviv native son
and internationally
renowned environ-
mental sculptor
Dani Karavan. But
because they built in
Palestine, they were
and remain un-
known abroad. The
one exception was
Erich Mendelsohn,
whose reputation
was already estab-
lished when he em-
igrated to Palestine
in 1934.
Adapting the style to the lo-
cal climate, the Bauhaus con-
tingent built on pillars, a la Le
Corbusier, and limited heights
to three stories so evening sea
breezes could cool the city.

Gardens were planted
around the pillars, creating a
green vista for pedestrians. Rib-
bon windows were recessed,
narrowed and often shielded
with a brise-soleil to keep out
intense summer heat.
When not crisscrossed by
clotheslines, the flat rooftops
served as communal patios.
Each apartment had at least
one outdoor balcony overlook-
ing the sidewalk so residents
could sit outdoors and enjoy the
passing social scene. Often, the
horizontal balconies would ex-
tend the length of the building,
the floor of each one shading
the balcony below.
Balconies and building cor-
ners were often curved, soften-
ing the appearance and

One thousand
buildings have been
designated for

creating visual continuity and
more open sidewalk space at
street corners.
After World War II, priorities
changed. During the first years
of Israeli statehood, as refugees
and new immigrants doubled
the population, good architec-
ture was an unaffordable lux-
ury and the government built
cheap, large, boxy apartment
In the '60s and '70s, up-
wardly mobile residents and
young families moved to new,
high-rise apai Lnients in north
Tel Aviv or the suburbs, and
towering glass and concrete of-
fice buildings began to clutter
the city's unobtrusive skyline.
Humid sea air and poor
maintenance destroyed the
White City's stucco facades,
parking spaces replaced street
level gardens, and growing fam-
ilies enclosed balconies and
added third and fourth stories.
Soon the fresh, new style that

had symbolized the young city
was unrecognizable.
The White City was on the a_
verge of disappearing when a
few determined people rallied



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