Tel Aviv has the largest collection of
buildings built in the International Style,
anywhere in the world. Bauhaus architecture
flourished in Tel Aviv (as elsewhere in the
country) in the 1930’s due in great part to the
fact that 17 former Bauhaus students, worked
locally as architects.
Arieh Sharon, Dov Carmi, Zeev Rechter, Pinchas
Hueth, Josef Neufeld, Genia Averbuch Richard
Kauffmann and Erich Mendelsohn are just some of
the architects, who contributed to the local
abundance of Bauhaus architecture. Sharon, (no
relation to the current prime minister)was known
for his cooperative workers’ dwellings in Tel
Aviv, work on many of the country’s hospitals and
his early beginnings in kibbutz Gan Shmuel.
Averbuch is best known because in 1934, at 25, she
won second prize (no first prize was given), in
the competition to design Dizengoff Circle, in
memory of Zina Dizengoff, Meir Dizengoff’s wife.
While Mendelsohn designed the private residence of
the country’s first president, Dr. Chaim
Between the First and Second World Wars, there
was a great building momentum in Tel Aviv, because
of the growing waves of immigration from Europe.
Buildings that now show their age were once
painted white (or beige). The city had many
‘white’ buildings, which came to be associated
with the International Style (even though white
exteriors are not really one its characteristics).
Nevertheless, that is the source of the city’s
nickname of “The White City”.
Tel Aviv has the largest number of cooperative
workers’ apartments in the country. The aim was to
provide residents with as much equality in living
quarters. These blocks of apartments, operated
almost as self-contained units. Residents had a
variety of services right in the buildings,
including kindergarten, post office, convenience
store, laundry etc. Additionally, a plot of land
was set aside, so that residents could grow their
own vegetables. Having a ‘connection to the land’
was viewed as extremely important. An example of
such a cooperative unit can be seen at the corner
of Frishman, Dov Hoz and Frug streets. This block
of buildings also served as headquarters of the
There are over 1500 International Style
buildings in Tel Aviv, slated for
preservation/restoration. Looking at some of the
buildings already restored, one can only imagine
how beautiful and modern the city must have looked
in the 1930’s.
Some Local Bauhaus Adaptations
Some of the key elements of
Bauhaus architecture had to be adapted to the
local environment, primarily because of the
climate. One of the key elements of the
International Style in Europe was a large window.
However, in a hot climate – large windows that let
great amounts of light shine into the rooms – do
not make sense. Locally, glass was used sparingly
and long, narrow, horizontal windows are visible
on many of the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv. On
some buildings, you can also see long narrow
balconies, which in many cases have now been
enclosed. This was an adaptation of the long
The horizontal ‘strip window’ was a signature
characteristic of Le Corbusier. A number of local
architects worked in Le Corbusier’s office in
Paris and were greatly influenced by his style.
Stilt Columns (Pilotis)
used by Le Corbusier was stilt-type columns
(pilotis), which raised the buildings off street
level thereby creating room for a green garden
area while providing greater airflow.
The first building built in this manner in Tel
Aviv, was Beit Engel. It was built in 1933, by
Zeev Rechter, and is located at 84 Rothschild
Boulevard, and the corner of Ma’zeh Street.
Rothschild Boulevard is an excellent area to see a
great variety of Bauhaus buildings (although quite
a few are in dire need of restoration). If you go
to see the Engel building today you will notice
that the ‘open’ area created by the stilt columns
has been enclosed. Rechter fought for two years to
get approval to build on these stilt columns. This
type of building became quite common, in Tel Aviv
and the surrounding cities, although by the 1940’s
fewer buildings were being built in this manner in
Another of the local features of
the Bauhaus buildings, are the flat roofs, as
opposed to the typical shingled and slanted roofs,
prevalent in the European buidlings. The roofs
served all of a buidlings’ residents. While roofs
in most cases did not feature gardens, (as
envisioned by Le Corbusier), they were a place
where social events were held and where the
laundry room was often located as well.
The local building
technology of the time was not advanced.
Reinforced concrete was first used (in Tel Aviv)
in 1912. Later it became widely used, because it
was easy to work with and did not require skilled
Bauhaus architecture became common in Tel Aviv
of the 1930’s for a variety of reasons. There was
a strong tendency toward modernization.
Architects, who worked locally, had strong ties to
the European architectural developments of the
day. There was also a need to build cheaply and
quickly because of the growing metropolis.
Tel Aviv is the only city in the world, built
mostly, in the International Style. In fact, over
the years a kind of reactionary ‘anti-Bauhaus’
Saving and restoring many of the city’s
wonderful old buildings is fraught with legal and
economic constraints that often make conservation,
less than desirable for the building’s owners. One
can only hope that the coming years will bring
solutions that will enable the preservation of
more of Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus architecture.