Tel Aviv has some awesome architecture to check out, and it’s not just the stunning new towers that are being thrown up at an amazing rate around the city that you should be snapping photos of. In particular, watch out for the many white Bauhaus buildings which dominate the Tel Aviv landscape, and which have led Tel Aviv to be known as The White City.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Bauhaus was actually a German school which operated between 1919 and 1933 and was devoted to art, architecture and design. Bauhaus had a significant impact on those disciples and is commonly used to refer to the art deco style of architecture that was the result of such teaching and became particularly popular in the 1930s and 1940s, especially with the arrival of many immigrant German architects ready to design and build the rapidly growing Tel Aviv.
The Bauhaus Style saw primary forms and colours given great importance and with a focus on functionalism and rationality in building, it saw a marked departure from ornament as an architectural style. The Bauhaus Style can be seen in over 4000 Tel Aviv buildings, each displaying its own variation of asymmetry, compositions of primary volumes, both cubic and rounded, with ribbon windows, thermometer balconies, roof terraces and wonderful plays of shadow and light.
One of the key aspects of the Bauhaus Style that many are unfamiliar with is its focus on the social aspects of design, and it is believed that this factor prompted the style to become so popular in Tel Aviv, and Israel, at a time when socialist ideas were prevalent.
Where can I see Bauhaus Style buildings in Tel Aviv?
If you’re interested in going solo, the most common areas to check out are:
- Rothschild Street (and the surrounding area of Shenkin, notably Gruzenburg, Mazeh (especially the intersection with Nahmani), Lilenblum, Balfour and Melchett streets)
- Dizengoff Street
- Bialik Street
Alternatively, you could join the FREE ‘WHITE CITY’ tour, which sets off every Saturday at 11:00. Meeting point is at 46 Rothschild Street. This tour focuses on the modern architectural White City area along Rothschild Street, and describes the story of Tel Aviv.
Perhaps the ultimate option is to visit the Bauhaus Center, which was established in 2000 with the intention of promoting recognition of Tel Aviv as the ‘White City’ (it worked – in 2003 Tel Aviv achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site status on account of its Bauhaus architecture).
The center features collections (both permanent and changing exhibitions) and also tours. Its tours are run regularly including every Friday at 10am when the tour is conducted in English (other languages are available – contact the center for details, www.bauhaus-center.com). Each guide is licensed and will take you on a fascinating trip to see the city’s most worthy Bauhaus gems.
The tour takes approximately 2 hours and costs 60 shekels (approx. $17). If you prefer to take a self-guided tour, the center has plans of the city, architecture-related maps and audio guides accompanied by videos so that you can discover the city more independently. A popular and interesting way to spend half a day in the city.
Is Tel Aviv really such a ‘White City’?
Some argue that the Bauhaus Style has led to Tel Aviv being a drab, grey city of concrete and with legal and economic difficulties attached to restoring the buildings there is sadly much evidence of the elements taking their toll with many crumbling Bauhaus buildings that haven’t seen a splash of paint since the 1950s. However, work is being done to see that the city and its buildings are restored so that it once again wears it title The White City with pride.