Tel Aviv was the last stop of our holiday around Jordan and Israel. Though I did expect a lot from Petra and Jerusalem, I wasn’t especially excited about Tel Aviv. Eitan had been before and raved about it. It turned out to be a huge surprise! I loved strolling along its leafy streets, walking along the sea, and getting lost in historic marketplaces. However, there is one thing that sets this Mediterranean city apart: its whitewashed modernist buildings. In fact, Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv reached such a peak that UNESCO had to include it in its World Heritage Sites list. Of course, it’s not only quantity. We are talking about outstanding examples of the early International Style.
- 1 International Style and Bauhaus
- 2 Bauhaus in Tel Aviv – The White City
- 3 Staying in a Bauhaus Hotel in Tel Aviv
- 4 How to Tour the White City of Tel Aviv
- 5 Bauhaus Center, Museum and the White City Center
- 6 Books on Bauhaus in Tel Aviv
International Style and Bauhaus
One of the basic principles of architecture is that it should reflect its time. That’s exactly what happened in Europe after World War I. The world evolved rapidly, and technological innovations revolutionized the way people lived and worked. Hence, it was the perfect time to rethink living spaces and avoid unnecessary decorations. The so-called International Style spread rapidly with its flat surfaces, lack of ornamentation or color, and the use of lightweight mass-produced materials. Many schools around the continent taught its principles. One of these schools grabbed the world’s attention: the famous Bauhaus. The short-lived art school left a clear mark on the world’s architecture.
Bauhaus in Tel Aviv – The White City
Bauhaus opened its doors in Weimar in 1919, a few months after the war ended. Under political pressure, it moved to Dessau in 1925. Since the pressure persisted, in 1931 it moved again to Berlin to finally close its doors permanently in 1933. Many of its professors and students soon emigrated, and several found refuge in Tel Aviv. It was the perfect place at the perfect time. Tel Aviv had just approved a new plan for a garden city, and Bauhaus’s functionalistic architecture and cheap materials proved the ideal combinations. During the 30s, over 4000 Bauhaus buildings came to light in Tel Aviv, in an area that was to be known as the White City.
Staying in a Bauhaus Hotel in Tel Aviv
There is no better way to admire these unique buildings than staying in one of them. Fortunately, there are quite a few good options. The one thing though is that they don’t come cheap. Any Bauhaus tour of Tel Aviv should include its epicenter, Dizengoff Square. So why not stay there? The Cinema Hotel, housed in the famous Esther Cinema from 1939, is probably the most famous Bauhaus hotel in Tel Aviv. The location, facilities, and services are superb. If you prefer a chic boutique hotel, stay at the Lily & Bloom Boutique Hotel. If you want to splurge, stay at the spectacular White Villa Tel Aviv Hotel. You won’t regret it. Finally, if you are crazy about views, stay at the Poli House by Carmel Market.
How to Tour the White City of Tel Aviv
The World Heritage Site White City of Tel Aviv occupies a fairly large area of 1,4km2. UNESCO included 180 of the more than 1000 buildings submitted by the local authorities in its strict conservation list. Since these buildings are the best examples of Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv, no changes are allowed during reconstructions. Most of these buildings are in three areas: north of Dizengoff Square, around Rotchild Boulevard between Nachmahni Street and Habima Square, and Bialik Quarter. You can visit the White City of Tel Aviv on your own or take an organized walking tour.
If you want to have a perfect Tel Aviv holiday, check out this post about the best time to visit Israel.
Bauhaus Center, Museum and the White City Center
The importance of Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv is such that there are three institutions dedicated to it. The Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv organizes exhibitions about architecture, design, and art. Their bookstore sells books, postcards, posters, and other Bauhaus themed souvenirs. The center also organizes a Bauhaus in Tel Aviv walking tour. On the other hand, the Bauhaus Museum and Foundation is the only place in Tel Aviv where you can see original Bauhaus furniture and related objects. The neighboring White City Center oversees the restoration and conservation of Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus Buildings. It also hosts an artist residency and a small gallery.
Avraham Soskin House
Address Lilienblum 12
Architect Ze’ev Rechter 1933
Most Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv are multi-family residential buildings. That said, photographer Avraham Soskin’s House is a great example of a private residence. The two-story house has two asymmetrical wings and two separate entrances. The front wing serves as the family home, while the rear wing as a photography studio. The front façade has straight horizontal lines. There is a flat roof with a pergola, a row of windows, and a long balcony. In 1945, a floor was added to the house spoiling the whole composition. Fortunately, the 2006 reconstruction by celebrated architect Nitza Szmuk removed this floor and built a new one at the rear of the house.
Address Levontin 28
Architect Inge Emmanuel Halbrecht 1937
The Jacobson Building is one of the most notable examples of the international style. Built on the corner of two streets, it consists of three wings around an inner courtyard. Though originally designed as an office building with shops on the ground floor and mezzanine, it has always been a mixed-use building. Its most distinguishing feature is the corner itself, where the main staircase hides behind squared and rectangular windows. You can see how the architect used lights and shadows under the thin roof of the western wing and on balconies on the southern one. In 2012, Nitza Szmuk Architects took care of reconstructing the entire building.
Address Rothschild 84
Architect Ze’ev Rechter 1933
The unique Engel House shines bright on Tel Aviv’s main avenue, Rothschild. It is the first structure in the city built on pilotis (pillars). It is a U shaped building organized around an inner courtyard facing Maze Street. The long horizontal opening on the eastern and western façades is a typical Bauhaus element suitable for European cold weather. As you can imagine, this is unusual in sunny Israel. Again, lights and shadows interact playfully under the balconies on both southern ends. After decades of neglect, it was successfully reconstructed in 2019 by Amnon Bar Or-Tal Gazit Architects.
Address Hagilboa 1 – Sheinkin 65
Architect Abraham Markusfeld 1935 (Lucian Korngold 1936)
The Rubinsky House is another emblematic modernist building in downtown Tel Aviv. Though it’s thought to be by architect Lucian Korngold, the signatures on the plans belong to architects Markusfield and Kranowski. It is another building on pillars. Initially, local authorities weren’t thrilled with the pillars. However, following the building’s success, the city council required every building to be built on pillars! A plaster coat wraps the house. You can see several decorative elements typical of the International style. We are talking about the round windows, rounded terraces, concrete beams, and awnings unusual in the Bauhaus style. Once again, in 2008 Amnon Bar Or-Tal Gazit Architects reconstructed the building.
Address Strauss 3
Architect Zeev Haller 1933
The Bruno House is a residential building known for its round cantilevered balconies. It was the home of teachers of the Balfour School, across the street. The deep round balconies that adorn the whole building enhance the simple straight lines of Bauhaus architecture. Bar Orian Architects thoroughly reconstructed the building in 2004. They also added two more floors on the backside. Luckily, these follow the original geometry and are hardly visible from the street. In the 1940s, members of the underground Lehi military group found temporary refuge in the house.
Dr Kruskal House
Address Hess 21
Architect Richard Kaufmann 1931
Compared to other buildings on this list, the Kruskal House seems sober. It makes sense since we are talking about the first International style house in Tel Aviv. It was originally a two-story town villa, but an identical floor was added in 1935. The Kruskal family lived on the upper floors and operated a clinic on the ground floor. The long cantilevered canopies distinguish the house. The latter protects the house from the strong summer sun, but allows light to enter in winter. The original horizontal lines of the ground floor were removed later. Architect Asaf Gottesman renovated the house in 1994.
Max Liebling House – White City Center
Address Idelson 29
Architect Dov Karmi 1936
Without a doubt, the Max Liebling House is amongst the nicest ones in Tel Aviv. This house represents everything that Bauhaus stands for: clean geometry, simple lines, and interaction between lights and shadows. The building is made of two blocks that take advantage of the irregular shaped plot and the sea breeze from the west. The long narrow balconies are an interpretation of Le Corbusier’s strip windows. They separate the interior from the exterior and filter the strong summer sun that comes in. The pergola above the entrance enhances the unity of the two blocks. Tony Lieblieng donated her home to the Tel Aviv municipality in 1963. It was renovated in 2019 to host the White City Center, a joint project of the Tel Aviv municipality and the German government.
Address Hayarkon 96
Architect Pinchas Bizonsky 1935
Perhaps the most elegant of all Bauhaus buildings is the famous Reisfeld House, also known as Hayarkon 96. Its large round windows and symmetrical shape resemble two giant ships. The building has three wings around an open courtyard that faces Hayarkon Street. Originally, it had a ground floor and three upper floors. In 2012, Amon Bar Or architects reconstructed the building entirely. They built five new glass floors at the rear of the building. Many important people lived here, including politicians and ambassadors. Today, it hosts Tel Aviv’s most expensive penthouse.
Address Ben Yehuda 130
Architect Yaakov Yerust and Arieh Elhahani 1930
The iconic Yarden Hotel (Jordan Hotel in Hebrew) has an important place in Tel Aviv’s history. The original hotel had 42 rooms and a popular vegetarian restaurant on the ground floor. The former prime minister of Israel, Ben Gurion, lived in the neighborhood and organized political meetings here. The balconies all along the façade adapt the building perfectly to local weather conditions. The low net fence on the balconies accentuates the horizontality of the building. The L shape of the building takes advantage of its location on the corner of two important streets by creating a small patio. Amnon Bar Or Architects restored the building in 2000 and added an extra floor in the same style. Today, it hosts tourist apartments.
Dizengoff Square – Esther Cinema
Address Dizengoff Square 12
Architect Yehuda Megidovich 1939
Dizengoff Square in central Tel Aviv is the world’s only Bauhaus Square. I love it! Every building on this round square follows the principles of the Bauhaus and International styles. Buildings have the same design, with long horizontal lines in narrow balconies, and pillars that lift them from the ground. The square’s designer, Genia Averbuch, also authored two buildings on the square. However, the most famous building, the so-called Esther Cinema, is the work of her colleague Yehuda Megidovich. It was a popular cinema until it went bankrupt and fell into disrepair. It was reconstructed in 2001 and turned into the abovementioned Cinema Hotel. The former cinema foyer is now the hotel’s reception.
Books on Bauhaus in Tel Aviv
I recommend a couple of interesting books on Bauhaus in Tel Aviv for those of you who want further information. These focus on different aspects of this unique architectural style. The photos in Form and Light, from Bauhaus to Tel Aviv by Yigal Gawze, are incredible. Through these photos, you’ll be able to understand the essence of this worldwide movement and its influence on Tel Aviv. To complete your understanding of the city, read Preservation and Renewal: Bauhaus and International Style buildings in Tel Aviv by Micha Gross. This brilliant book focuses on the extensive renovation program carried out in the White City. For further information on the buildings, Bauhaus Tel Aviv: An Architectural Guide by Nahoum Cohen is pretty interesting.