THE WHITE CITY

Inspired by dreams of next year's Summer vacation options, this week we revisit the architecture of the Bauhaus only this time not in Germany. . .

 

61 Rothschild Boulevard by Salomon Gepstein, 1932

 

Tel Aviv is home to more than 4,000 Bauhaus style buildings thanks to the influence of four Israeli architects that attended the arts school prior to its closure in 1933: Arieh Sharon, Shmuel Mestechkin, Munio Gitai-Weinraub and Shlomo Bernstein. Modernist elements like flat roofs and abundant windows that simply didn't function well within Northern Europe's cold and wet climate acclimated perfectly to Israel's desert air. Thanks to a 2015 preservation pact between the governments of Germany and Israel, over 1,500 of these beautiful buildings will be restored in the coming years while simultaneously educating current craftspeople, architects, and artists on the materials and principles originally employed.

Colourful cabinetry offsets white interior of Bauhaus-era apartment owned by architects Amir and Chen Navon (above)

Coined by architect Philip Johnson and architectural historian Henry Russell-Hitchcock, the term 'International Style' characterized the movement of ideas from the Bauhaus throughout the world in cities such as Barcelona, Los Angeles, and Tel Aviv. Of course each individual architect and country put their mark on the style and in the White City that can be noticed with a strict departure from decorative (non-functional) ornamentation alongside the application of rooftop gardens and outdoor communal spaces frequently worked into the building's form. 

Dr Leon Pines House, 79–81 Yehuda Halevi Street by Yitzhak Rapoport, 1938

When concrete, stucco, plaster and terrazzo-like materials were employed in German Bauhaus buildings such as the Haus-am-Horn, the result was beautiful but unfit-for-purpose as they allowed moisture from nature to seep in through the outer walls and condensation from plumbing to be absorbed within the inner walls. On the contrary, these same building materials had been used for centuries in Mediterranean climates - making them ideal for rendering facades in Israel. The large walls of windows that worked to heat the Dessau buildings where Bauhauslers practiced their craft would have been too hot for applications in Tel Aviv. Therefore, they were often replaced with smaller ribbon-style windows and recessed behind balconies and terraces while the white color reflected off surrounding buildings and the desert sand enabled plenty of light to remain inside the building's interiors. 

Today, architects in Israel are still using Bauhaus forms to guide and inspire and Tel Aviv remains one of the world's centers for Modernist design. So, anyone want to join us for a trip? Let's go! 

 

Avraham Soskin House, 12 Lilienblum Street by Zeev Rechter, 1933