Tel Aviv’s architectural heritage has achieved global attention through the UNESCO recognition of the city’s British Mandate-era International style and Bauhaus-influenced buildings. Less known is the city’s Brutalist heritage and historic builds designed in the succeeding decades. Brutalism played a significant role in the Israeli design sphere of the post World War II-era. Concrete’s inexpensive availability and fast construction capabilities were adopted into the early Socialist mentality of the state to accommodate its rapidly expanding population and willingness to portray a muscular exterior.
The exposed raw concrete of Brutalism came to define new builds during the era from governmental buildings, cultural institutions, sports stadiums to large-scale housing projects.
In recent years, many of Tel Aviv’s Brutalist buildings have been given a new lease on life for cultural and hospitality use as luxury hotels and world-class museums. Below are five examples of significant Brutalist transformations and restorations from sanitariums and office buildings into top hospitality and culture destinations.
The iconic Migdalor building was built in the 1970s by architects Arieh Elhanani and Nissan Canaan and sits at the corner of Ben Yehuda Street and Allenby Street, a block away from the beach. In 2018, the office building completed a complete interior renovation of numerous floors by Tel Aviv's pioneering hospitality group Brown Hotels, to become The Lighthouse by Brown Hotels. The hotel features 100 guest rooms and suites with a playful design and music pulsing through its common spaces. The building's sheer size offers sweeping views of the White City of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea from each vantage point in the hotel and culminates at the 18th floor Haiku Skybar & Lounge. In September 2019, the lobby of the Migdalor building will be transformed into WOM, the city's first pod-style hotel with 48 stylish, private and design-led rooms at a wallet-friendly price point.
The Mivtachim Sanitarium was originally built by architect Yaakov Rechter in 1968 and earned him the Israel Award for Architecture in 1973. Following years of decline, the project underwent a private multi-million dollar restoration in 2012 into a luxury art hotel funded by Lily Elstein, one of Israel's most notable philanthropists and art collectors. The current renovation of Elma Luxury Arts Complex Hotel was handled by Yaakov’s son, Amnon Rechter of Rechter Architects. The hotel features 95 rooms, Israel's most state-of-the-art performing arts center and acoustics, multiple galleries showcasing Ms. Elstein's private art collection from Israeli Masters to Picasso, a five-star dining experience, spa and active artist residency program.
Carlton Tel Aviv
Another iconic staple from Yaakov Rechter is Carlton Tel Aviv, completed in 1981. The Brutalist and mammoth hotel was one of the first to dominate the iconic Mediterranean Sea beachfront of Tel Aviv and stands next to Hilton Tel Aviv, Rechter's 1962 creation and the first International hotel chain to open in the city. In 2016, Carlton Tel Aviv completed the final phase of a $12 Million USD renovation and transformation of its 268 rooms and sea-view pool and restaurants on the 15th-floor rooftop. The two rooftop restaurants overlook the entire Tel Aviv skyline and are helmed by Chef Meir Adoni, who recently opened his first Berlin restaurant, Layla and NYC restaurant, Nur.
Originally established in 1932, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art opened in its current location in 1972. Designed by architects Dan Eytan and Yitzhak Yashar in classic Brutalist style, the Museum has grown over the years to become Tel Aviv's most important cultural institution. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art houses a significant collection of Israeli Art, European Masters, Modern Art, a sculpture garden, a Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Roy Lichtenstein murals. American architect Scott Preston Cohen designed the adjacent Herta and Paul Amir Wing in 2011, a modernist and iconic edifice standing in complete contrast to the original Brutalist building.
Shalom Meir Tower
Shalom Meir Tower, known locally in Hebrew as Migdal Shalom, was completed in 1965 and was Tel Aviv's first skyscraper. At the time of its completion, Meir Tower was the Middle East's tallest building with 34 floors, a title now belonging to Dubai's 163-floor Burj Khalifa. Meir Tower's controversial build was designed by architects Yitzhak Pearlstein, Gideon Ziv, and Meir Levy upon the bulldozed ruins of the 1909 Eclectic-style Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium, the country's first Hebrew high school established during Ottoman rule. The move sparked Israel’s current historical landmark preservation laws. Currently, Meir Tower is host to offices, along with a recently refurbished municipality library and tech incubator with views of the city skyline. Architecture and history enthusiasts can also visit the permanent exhibitions in the building's lobby and upper floors that present the history and development of Tel Aviv.