Architecture City Guide: Tel Aviv

Courtesy of Flickr CC License / wili_hybrid

This AD Architecture City Guide is dedicated to the vibrant city of Tel Aviv, originally established as a garden-city on the sandy shores of the Mediterranean in 1909. Although widely known as “The White City” for boasting the world’s largest collection of International Style Buildings, Tel Aviv is not merely a monochromatic Bauhaus colony: it presents a rich mosaic of locally interpreted styles, from Eclectic to Brutalist to contemporary, which are the result of foreign and locally-born architects who adapted to the local cultural and climatic conditions.

Join us for our architectural city guide through the “Non-Stop City” after the break…

The Pagoda House and the Eclectic Style

The Pagoda House by Alexander Levy, 1925. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1925, The Pagoda House is one of the most impressive examples of eclectic architecture in Tel Aviv. The three story house integrates elements from several architectural styles, time periods and motifs; its form is inspired by a traditional Chinese Pagoda, combined with load-bearing, Islamic arches and Greek Doric Columns. Today, the house serves as a residential home for a Swedish investor, who purchased and renovated the house in the 1990’s, following years of neglect.

The Levine House by Yehuda Magidovitch, 1924 (Renovated by Bar Or Architects). Image Courtesy of Flickr CC License / Debs

The Pagoda House is one of nearly 800 Eclectic Style buildings constructed in Tel Aviv in the 1920s, characterized by ornamented and colored facades, symmetrical divisions, domes, arches, and hanged balconies. The Eclectic style in Tel Aviv merged East and West to form a new architectural language and identity for the newly-born city, whose population grew from 2,000 in 1920 to 34,000 in 1935.

Check out more examples of the Eclectic Style:

  • The Pagoda house / Alexander Levy, 1925
  • Levine House / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1924 (Renovated by Bar Or Architects)
  • Bialik House / Joseph Minor, 1926
  • Beit Ha’ir (First City Hall) / Moshe Cherner, 1925
  • Nordau Hotel / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1925  
  • The Great Synagogue / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1926 / 110 Alenbi Street

Dizengoff Square and the

The Dizengoff Square by Genia Averbuch, 1934. Image © Vicen-t

Located in the heart of Tel Aviv, The Dizengoff Square holds a rich significance not only culturally, as a well-known center of theaters, cinemas and nightlife, but also architecturally. Originally designed by Genia Averbuch in 1934, the square was aligned at street level and contained a shaded public plaza, encompassed by four International Style white plastered-structures, characterized by horizontal windows, flat roofs and deep, curved balconies. The square was remodelled in 1978 to accommodate traffic flow by elevating pedestrian circulation via ramps that connected to adjacent sidewalks; the result was a new, unshaded plaza that halted the visual continuum of Dizengoff street. For this reason, the square is inhabited mostly after sundown, when the hot Mediterranean sun sets and the lights of Ya’akov Agam’s “Fire and Water Fountain” colorfully illuminate the newly renovated International Style houses that surround it.

The Cinema Hotel (former Esther Cinema) by Yehuda Magidovitch, 1938 . Image Courtesy of Flickr CC License / Frank Kresin

Due to the over 4,000 International Style buildings constructed between 1930 and 1954 by European architects of Jewish origin, who emigrated Europe following the rise of the Nazi regime, the “White City” was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003. These architects, who studied in Germany, Paris and Russia, were the crusaders of modernism in the new colony. The new functional and economical architecture, characterized by simple geometry and a lack of ornamentation, accommodated the need for rapid, low-cost construction, and most of all suited the ideals of the new socialist and nearly-utopian society. However, the European-educated architects realized adaptation had to be made to the Middle Eastern climate: large glass windows were replaced by small and recessed ones, deep covered balconies provided shady spaces for residents, and city houses were raised on pilotis to allow the sea breeze to flow and cool them.

Check out more examples of the International Style:

  • Dizengoff Square / Genia Averbuch
  • Esther Cinema (Cinema Hotel) / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1938
  • Rubinsky House / Lucian Korngold, Renovation: Bar Or Architects
  • Biggelman House / A. Cabiri, 1934
  • Recanati Building / Ya’akov Orenstein, 1935
  • Soskin House / Ze’ev Recheter, 1934

The El Al House and Brutalism:  

El Al House by Dov and Ram Karmi, 1963. Image © Justin Kliger

The El Al House was designed by the father-son duo Dov and Ram Karmi in 1963. Containing 12,000 meters of office space, which span over 13 floors, The El Al House was the first office building constructed in and is considered one of its first skyscrapers. Thanks to its panoramic views of the Mediterranean, the El Al House soon became a prime real-estate office space; more importantly, its exposed concrete, iconic spiral staircase, and rigid, geometrical repetition made the building a Brutalistic landmark in the city.

World Zionist Organization Building by Arieh Sharon and Benjamin Idelson, 1957. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The El AL house showcased the emerging new style applied by the second generation of Israeli architects, born and educated in Israel, known as “Sabras.” Unlike the Diaspora-born architects, who favored the white-stucco cover of the International Style, The Sabras preferred the coarse, exposed concrete of Brutalism, which not only expressed the international zeitgeist, but was also a manifestation of a sobering society, whose idealist and utopians visions were scarred by World War II and the War Of Independence in 1948.

Iconic projects in Contemporary Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Extension by Preston Scott Cohen, 2010. Image © Amit Geron

In the 1990’s Tel Aviv evolved into the city we know today. The latest phase of the city’s construction has been characterized by iconic landmarks and skyscrapers, far more appropriate to the rising liberal economy, which replaced the country’s early days of socialist idealism. Today, as vast restorations of Eclectic and International style buildings are being carried out adjacent to luxury condos and glassy office buildings, the city of Tel Aviv presents an unusual juxtaposition of old and new. It has also become home to the most wanted residential real estate in the country, attracting students, artists, entrepreneurs, and young families who utilize the city around the clock, hourly illustrating just how Tel Aviv has earned its nickname: the “non-stop” city.

Just for fun-Check out these Instagram shots of Tel Aviv by ArchDaily’s editor in-chief: 

Complete list of buildings, architects and locations:

  • The Pagoda House / Alexander Levy, 1925 / King Albert Square (Intersection of Nahmani, Montefiore, Melchett and Bezalel Yaffe streets)
  • Levine House / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1924 / 46 Rothschild Boulevard
  • Bialik House / Joseph Minor, 1926 /  22 Bialik Street
  • Beit Ha’ir (first city hall) / Moshe Cherner, 1925 / 25 Bilaik street
  • The Great Synagogue / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1926 / 110 Alenbi Street
  • Nordau Hotel / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1925 / 27 Nachlat Binyamin street
  • Dizengoff Square / Genia Averbuch, 1934 / 89 Dizengoff street
  • Esther Cinema (Cinema Hotel) / Yehuda Magidovitch, 1938 / 89 Dizengoff street
  • Rubinsky House / Lucian Korngold, 1937 / 65 Sheinkin Street
  • Soskin House / Ze’ev Recheter, 1934 / 12 Lilenblum Street
  • Biggelman House / A. Cabiri, 1934 / 11 King Solomon Street
  • Recanati Building / Ya’akov Orenstein, 1935 / 35 Begin Street
  • El Al House / Dov and Ram Karmi, 1963 / 32 Ben Yehuda Street
  • World Zionist Organization Building  / Arieh Sharon and Benjamin Idelson, 1957 / Kaplan Street
  • The international Bank Building / Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners
    With Nir – Kutz Architects, 2009 / 42 Rothschild Blvd
  • The Peres Peace House / Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, 2008 / 132 Kedem Street
  • Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Extension / Preston Scott Cohen, 2010 / 27 King Shaul Boulevard
  • Tel Aviv Port / Mayslits Kassif Architects 2008
  • Azrieli Towers / Moore Yaski Sivan Architects, 1999 / 132 Begin Road
Cite: Merin, Gili. "Architecture City Guide: Tel Aviv" 10 Sep 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=175525>

3 comments

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    Can you please do a city guide on Toronto,Vancouver or even Montreal. We need more of Canada, your friendly neighbor..

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