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Bauhaus Style in Tel Aviv
Bauhaus, the defining architectural style of Tel Aviv, is a great way to explore the city.The geometric forms and pastel colors of this modern design ethos, transplanted in the 1930s by Jewish architects fleeing Europe, fit both the landscape and Zionist notions of a socialist Utopia.
The so-called "White City," the central part of Tel Aviv that is home to the largest concentration of Bauhaus buildings, was named a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003. Bauhaus-inspired architecture, more accurately referred to as the Modern or International style, was based on the idea that art should serve society and that form should also have function. For example, balconies were not designed to be merely decorative but to serve as a source of shade, fresh air, and a place from which to interact with neighbors. Today conservation efforts are making headway, but many classic buildings need repair, their beauty lost under peeling paint. It's a work in progress as the city offers incentives to owners to restore their properties.
Signature vertical staircases offset the predominance of horizontal lines and are recognizable by the steel-frame windows that provide light. Roof gardens, identifiable by pergolas of beams and columns, were designed with the expectation that neighbors would socialize on their rooftops. Simple and well-proportioned, balconies can be curved or square or rectangular in shape, and are often overhung with ledges that provide shade.
A Bauhaus Walk
The city's Bauhaus bounty is best discovered by foot. A good place to stroll is along Rothschild Boulevard and its side streets, which also have pleasant cafés and restaurants. A walking tour can begin at No. 90, corner of Balfour Street. Here a three-story mustard-colored building, with the clean lines that are a trademark of the style, stands in contrast to the highly decorated building next door. Note the front door with horizontal strips of wood inlaid in the glass. Its wooden shutters are not necessarily an element that would be seen in European Bauhaus examples, but here became a necessity because of the sun. Walk to Nos. 89 and 91, twin buildings in need of renovation, and see the small vertical windows indicating the placement of a central staircase and the two main styles of balcony, rounded and rectangular.
Walk back across boulevard and look for Engel Street, a pedestrian-friendly lane lined with Bauhaus buildings. No. 7 features horizontal bands of balconies and windows. The front door has an asymmetrical overhang and canopy. For an example of the city's restoration efforts, look up to its top floor, which continues the horizontal theme.
Returning to Rothschild Boulevard, walk to Nos. 113/115. Here again you can see the "thermometer" staircase and its small, elegant windows. On the right-hand side the balconies wrap around the building, mimicking the corner of the street; on the left-hand side the balconies are aligned with the side of the building.
Check the city tourist office for free Bauhaus walking tours. The Bauhaus Center at 99 Dizengoff Street sells books and more, and offers excellent walking tours. Another resource is the Bauhaus Foundation Museum at 21 Bialik Street, open Wednesday and Friday. Bialik Street has many attractive older buildings.
Exploring on your own? Here are a few key buildings around the city.
9 Gordon St., 1935. One of the first Bauhaus buildings to be refurbished in the city; take in its elegant cube within a cube design, wooden shutters, and rooftop pergola.
Haaretz Print Works, 56 Mazeh St., 1934. The building where Haaretz newspaper was once printed has steel-framed glass windows and balconies with rounded railings and cantilevered roofs.
25 Idelson St., 1931. Designed as a family villa: note a mix of balconies, the asymmetric form, and the mix of small horizontal and vertical windows.
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