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Published: October 22nd 2018
We are looking down from the top floor of a converted Bauhaus cinema, now the cool boutique hotel where we are staying. Around Dizengoff Square, with its drum-shaped fountain, are a number of fine Bauhaus buildings. Characteristic long horizontal lines formed by smooth balconies and ribbons of windows, skinny verticals (including the classic “thermometer” windows of internal stair ways), gentle curves and occasional sinuous forms abound.
There is over 1000 of these remarkable buildings remaining from the Modern Movement of the 1920s and early 1930s. They were built by European immigrants schooled in the International style and adapted for a hotter climate. They display an elegant simplicity and functionality of style. The majority are built from smoothly rendered white washed concrete and possibly result of the “poverty of materials” experienced by this city during its early development. The most notable are located around Rothschild Boulevard and Ahad Ha’am Street which is experiencing ever-ongoing restoration. It is these buildings that ensured Tel Aviv were granted a UNESCO World Heritage protection in 2003 as the “White City” on the Med. The most impressive buildings include Kiriyaty House on Ruppin Street, Krieger House on Rothschild Boulevard, Dunkelblum House, the cubic structure of Shomon
Yafe on Bialik Street and our own hotel, the former Esther cinema. The cinema was designed in 1930 and is now crammed full of cinema themed paraphernalia and styling.
In addition, there is also an array of highly uncompromising buildings in the brutalist style. Not much loved, but still giving a coherent and exacting impression and adding much to the city heritage.
Just as you are getting comfortable with the incredible architectural legacy of Tel Aviv, there are a couple of absolute howlers that jar you from your comfort zone. Number 2 Trumpeldor Street is the black sheep of the family. The building is situated on the promenade and is a cacophony of ill-fitting forms and disjointed lines crammed tightly together without proportion or symmetry. In a weird way it resembles a solidified version on the 1970s children’s game “mousetrap”. The building is a mash of struts, braces, odd projections and even what appears to be a bucket affixed to one side.
This Frankenbuilding must be some kind of career breakdown writ large in concrete. If painted in monochrome, the buildings sharp pointed forms and harsh oblique lines, would make it look like part of the film
set of the German expressionist movie, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Even in on paper this could not have looked like a particularly good idea. The blue prints may well have come back with a parental guidance warning.
Further along the coast is further montrosity, a bride of frankenbuilding if you will. This construction has a strange irregular facade. 181 Hayarkon Street was designed by the French architect Leon Gaignebet and constructed in 1985. Supposedly the vision was to create a building that brought together the sea and desert. The sea is represented on the white side by the balconies that resemble waves and the desert on the beige side is full of plants and sand sculptures.
The unfortunate result is is the balconies look as they have been unnaturally grafted onto an otherwise bland, dun coloured building which has been subjected to outbreaks of occasional, unpleasant, random growths.
It looked like someone scribbled over the top of the original blue print but the building was constructed regardless, doodles and all. Across the road a matching bench had been placed . It is a explosion of grey piping. It must rank as the most uncomfortable pieces of street furniture ever produced.
These aberrations of form do provide a funcounter point to the TLV building stock. After a morning of touring the Bauhaus stylings taking in clean and attractive lines they are a resounding poke in the eye to a fan of seamless lines and harmony of form.
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