White City of Tel-Aviv
White City of Tel-Aviv - the Modern Movement, covers a part of the city that was developed in the 1930s as a result of innovative town planning adapted to local conditions.
The name derives from the large number of white, or light-colored buildings built there in the Bauhaus or International style. The masterplan was created by Sir Patrick Geddes, and executed by various European (Jewish) architects.
Over 4000 buildings in these styles can still be seen in central Tel Aviv; the largest concentration in any one city in the world.
Map of White City of Tel-AvivLoad map
I already expressed my enthusiasm towards Tel-Aviv as a "non-member" three years ago. Now, I would like to comment it more in detail and add an obvious photo of a representative "white" building metioned in the official Tel Aviv - Yafo, Preservation Map and Guide purchased in the Bauhaus Center in 2017 (PHOTO - 23 Pinsker St., Mintz-Elenberg House / Anchor House, architect Pinchas Hutt, 1935-36) - the house is located in the buffer zone of the Bialik area, and it is kind of typical as seen on the massive stripe of windows covering the stairwell, but it is symmetrical unlike the classical Bauhaus. Another quite frequent feature is that the original balconies were covered by windows with shutters.
I was on a one week stay in Tel-Aviv in 2017 and spent at least 3 days by walking in the wider area of Tel-Aviv spanning from the old Yafo/Jaffa, Neve Zedek, Red City, Lev Hayir and The Carmel Market, White City to the newest Northern White City. The mentioned clusters also represent the successive growing and development from ancient Yafo to the modern capital of the Jewish Nation. The inscribed clusters (A - central White City around Dizengoff and Habima squares, B - Rothschild Avenue area, C - Bialik Area) with surrounding buffer zone were built in 30s-40s of 20th Century in the uniform and coherent style inspired by Bauhaus, Le Corbusier and Erich Mendelsohn. However, Tel-Aviv is not a museum but living organic structure, it means that Tel-Aviv is not pristine whitish. I have no problem with that, and take WHITE as a title, not as a feature. It is unbelievable that the idea of Sionism expressed itself in the ensamble of almost 4000 buildings in the coherent international style (around 1000 buildings are protected).
Something similar happened also in my homeland Czechia in the city of Brno during 20s-30s, when old medieval and textile industry town with 70 thousands inhabitans turned into the quarter of a million metropolis of Moravia, and there is WHS Tugenthat villa among other modern buildings...
(1) I was accomodated in Shenkin street located in the buffer zone between Rothschield and Bialik. The area is not built in the uniform style, but I liked for example the square at the intersection of Shenkin, Alenby and HaMelekh George inspired by Erich Mendelsohn architecture.
(2) Bialik area is a quiet residential neighborhood, quite interesting, but I like other parts more.
(3) Rothschild Avenue is busy street but I enjoyed especially walking in the green alley in the middle - it is a popular spot for modern locals and gay couples with their kids on Saturday afternoons. It contains great examples of the international style.
(4) I liked the area around Habima square with beautiful but modern Yaakov garden.
(5) The Dizengoff square was unfortunately under reconstruction in 2017... but there are iconic modern buildings all around.
(6) I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and late lunch on the Masaryk square located in Dizengoff core zone. There are not many exceptional buildings, but it is called after the first president of Czechoslovakia Tomáš Masaryk.
(7) I also liked parts of Tel-Aviv outside the core&buffer zones especially Southern part of Rothschild and Neve Zedek neighborhood. The old Yafo is also nice but not exceptional as compared to other ancient towns in Mediterranean.
I think the term "White City" is just overdone. After visiting Sucre, Arequipa, and Tel Aviv, it seems that every one of these "white" cities is disappointingly not so white, and often, a little disappointing in general. It's not that the name is given to ugly cities, I think it's just that the name draws an immediate picture of a stunningly pristine and glistening urban landscape, and the reality is often far from the truth. For Tel Aviv, though, it may be a bit more than that that doesn't quite impress as much as the rest. Tel Aviv was naturally my first stop upon arriving in Israel in April 2018, and taking a taxi ride to the apartment right by the WHS core zone, it wasn't hard to observe the general style of the buildings. They were all Bauhaus, but not what I had pictured in my head. They were quite simple and modern-looking. But they weren't all white. Or clean. Or in good condition. But they formed a huge ensemble. Everywhere I looked, there was just Bauhaus. That being said, each building did look a bit different. Some were all smooth, white, and curvy. Others looked like sand-colored sandstone blocks. There's might be quite a few things to look out for in this seemingly stylistically coherent district.
After lunch in the excellent shawarma and falafel shop nearby, I started my walking tour of the White City. First stop was Dizengoff Square, but the fountain was covered for renovation which just made the already not so impressive square just look ugly, so I went on to Bialik Square. The side streets I passed on the way were probably the best exhibitions of the uniqueness of Tel Aviv Bauhaus. They were actually designed with many elements that one would never look at as remarkable, but the truth is the local climate brought out the flat roofs, small windows, multiple balconies, and stilt columns. The columns or pilotis were a really interesting touch to observe because they allow cold air to blow in the large shaded areas they create. Finally approaching Bialik Square, it was a really unassuming neighborhood to house the old city hall; it almost seemed like a residential subdivision with slightly fancier cleaner Bauhaus houses. After this, I left the WHS to visit Carmel Market and Jaffa, which were honestly just as, if not more, interesting. As cool as the Tel Aviv Bauhaus is, and as impressive and extensive of an ensemble the city has, I can't say I was any more than interested. It's never gonna be a site that makes a tourist go woah, and in fact, is quite disappointing for most casual tourists. Maybe a part of that is caused by its distinctive architectural elements being quite common in today's world, which could be, but most likely isn't, a testament of Tel Aviv's legacy in the world. Nevertheless, it's a site of great value. It probably deserves its place on the List, but it isn't exactly the kind of site that would give a great visiting experience or impression. Also, Old Jaffa is more interesting to explore while you're there, so check that out.
As the WH inscription itself suggests, the highest concentration of examples of Bauhaus Movement architecture (interestingly, the inscription never uses the term "Bauhaus", instead preferring fuzzier "modern") is around Dizengoff Square, Bialik Square, and along the Rothschild Boulevard. Whichever route you choose between these points, you cannot miss the White City buildings here or there, and will probably see enough of them after half an hour or so.
It is not a contiguous monument by any degree. As you walk around town, you will find quite a lot of regular streets and newer construction that sometimes organically and sometimes not exactly fits in and around this architectural collection. You will also see instances of neglect and dilapidation. However, I did not find that to be the norm. In fact, in the process of geo-tagging photos from my stay in Tel Aviv, I looked up locations on Google StreetView. Practically without fail, Google representations dated around 2015 show the buildings in a significantly worse shape than I found them in November of 2019; in some cases, the improvement was striking. Something must be said about positive regeneration that’s been going on in the city lately.
There is the White City Center on Bialik Square (which is open on a very limited schedule a couple of times a week) and the Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv on Dizengoff Street (which should be open more readily) that offer photo-galleries dedicated to the history of Tel Aviv construction, which may be worthwhile additions to seeing the buildings from the street level. I did not find either of them open when I was around. Hotel Cinema Esther on Dizengoff Square is the likeliest building to venture inside if you feel that your exploration of this WH site would be incomplete without an interior visit.
Read more from Ilya Burlak here.
The White City of Tel Aviv is the rather poetic appellation given to one of the Middle East's youngest World Heritage Sites -- a living museum of several thousand buildings constructed in the mid-20th century in the Bauhaus or International style. The years prior to World War II brought an influx of architects from Europe to Tel Aviv, where they brought concepts from the Bauhaus school to the sun-drenched shores of the Mediterranean. I arrived in Tel Aviv on a warm spring evening in 2015, and immediately went to the Bauhaus Center at 77 Dizengoff Street to become more familiar with Tel Aviv's unique architecture. Sadly, the center was more of a store than a historical gallery, but it gave me a starting point for my walk around the city. After passing by the Cinema Hotel and Dizengoff Square, I continued for several blocks to Rothschild Avenue, home to a great concentration of Bauhaus-style buildings. Most of the buildings looked very lived in, and some were partially obscured by power lines and palm trees. Still, I appreciated the different approaches to balconies and windows in buildings on both sides of the street. The architecture was worth a visit, but I highly recommend ending the day by enjoying the sunset over the Mediterranean.
Logistics: Tel Aviv is fairly easy to navigate on foot, which is the best way to appreciate the many buildings that constitute this World Heritage Site.
I spent a week in Tel Aviv in February 2017. It was my first visit of Israel and I enjoyed my stay in Tel Aviv a lot! I must say: I would not have a temptation to leave the city and go to a tourist trap of Jerusalem even after one week at one place.
My impression was that Tel Aviv is a blend of Berlin with a mediterranean spirit.
That is true that the condition of some houses is poor (however, it has been improved a lot) and their appearance have been changed, but what I found unique in Tel Aviv is that there is a huge ensamble of such houses. In Czechia, we have only limited number of buildings in the international style and only few billionars would afford to have a house in Bauhaus style...
We only gave the White City around 2.5 hours and certainly wouldn’t claim to have seen it comprehensively. We concentrated on the areas/side streets on and around Rothschild Boulevard and Disengoff Circus and quite enjoyed the atmosphere and ambiance of the place – though Assif’s warnings about the condition of some of the site in an earlier review certainly had validity. Some of the buildings had undergone recent renovation and were looking quite smart but, to us, none of them had the wow factor either of the iconic modernist single structure WHS inscriptions or of the best of the Berlin Housing Estates.
A few points which did emerge and might be of interest were as follows
a. I was surprised how many of the notable buildings had undergone quite significant alterations - usually the addition of 2+ floors. This included for instance the Cinema Hotel. One can understand the economic logic but one normally expects ICOMOS to be rather “pickier” on such matters – distorting the “balance” of the buildings etc
b. The so-called “Bauhaus Centre” at 99 Disengoff seems to be primarily a commercial enterprise selling anything and everything which could be “Bauhaus” branded. Nevertheless it is worth looking into for the small exhibition of photographs on the upper 2 floors. I particularly liked the very early photos of Tel Aviv such as the original laying out of Rothschild Boulevard on a sand dune!
c. The Cinema Hotel foyer was accessible but, apart from a few cinematic artifacts, looked what it was – a revamped hotel reception area!! Even the toilets failed to create the appropriate style. If you want to see a REAL Art Deco cinema go to Asmara – it has 3 of them and 2 are still operating
d. The areas we went to were not, on the whole, well signed/explained - a few buildings had plaques describing their history and there were a few vertical signboards but notably they all lacked the UNESCO logo – perhaps their installation predated inscription. If you like getting a photo of an inscription plaque (as we do!!) there is one on the pavement in the tree-lined central walkway of Rothschild at the first X roads south of 84 Rothschild!
e. And 84 Rothschild provides a “nice” example of the poor condition of some of the most important buildings. The Engel House at 84 receives special mention as being the first house in Tel Aviv built on stilt columns a la “International style”. Today however those columns are filled in with breeze blocks and are graffiti covered whilst the overall “shape” of the building has been totally altered by infilling of balconies etc. Nothing I guess that a bit of money couldn’t put right but indicative of the state of parts of the site (photos – B+W of original building at top and, below, as of Jan 2014)!
I travel to Tel Aviv more than 10 years ago, before it was inscribed to the WHL. I went back in June 2011 and wanted to have a closer look at the « white city ». I went first to the Bauhaus museum, and bought a detailed map showing all the protected buildings and the site limit with the buffer zone. From there I went on walks around, trying to discover the buildings listed on the map. Some are in bad need of repair.
Some are well known and figure in all travel guides (Dizengoff Square, Thermomether House). But most just lie waiting to be discovered along walks. I really enjoy this king of heritage site where you can wander around.
By the way, you can even stay in some Bauhaus-hotels (protected and part of the site), for example the Hotel Cinema, part of the Atlas chain.
Tel Aviv is my home city and I love it. Nonetheless I feel obliged to warn the visitor from its quite ugly architecture and neglected appearance. It is a vibrant, young, interesting and welcoming city - but forget about classical beauty. The White City is unfortunately no exception to what I've just said. It's maybe historically interesting or significant, but is generally run down. The main boulevard crossing the White City is Rotschield which is nice and lively and offers great cafes and pubs. I wouldn't come with too high expectations regarding the architecture, but I'm no expert in Bauhaus.
i personally wasn't so impressed with this site. this may have had something to do with the fact that i visited it, directly after a 11 hour flight, with no sleep in between. still, a lot of the buildings are very similar to what i see everyday at home; though there are some exceptional ones. i understand that this site holds value as the first city to be built entirely in the Bauhaus style, it's just not super impressive. i would recommend visiting this site if you have time, and are in the area, but you shouldn't go out of your way to see it (tel aviv how ever has many great other attractions)
I must admit that I had not read up properly on this World Heritage Site – Tel Aviv, the White City. I knew as much as it was all about architecture and my first thought was that I’d have to go and see a few houses, an easy task… but little did I know…having visited the local tourist information I was thoroughly enlightened and given a map of the city I then realised that over 300-400 houses was included in the World Heritage Site of Tel Aviv. Representing what was called the New Movement, a Bauhaus style imported from Germany, has made Tel Aviv become a Miami-look-a-like.
Together with its southern cousin Jaffa, one of the oldest ports in the world, Tel Aviv is a very nice and surprisingly laid-back city. I will forever remember the lush streets and the long beach walk where I was served the creamiest cappuccino I’ve ever tasted in my life. Last but not least I must also admit that I admire the relaxed attitude towards the Middle Eastern problems. There might be militaries, guns and checkpoints at every store or train station but the locals seem to take the whole thing with a smile. On the other hand, what choice do they have…?
I have been a frequent and regular visitor and resident in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv remains the greatest collection of Modern Movement architecture I have ever seen. Although many, possibly most buildings, have been altered, the alterations are not of a permenant nature. The most common and nearly ubiquitous change is the addition of "treeseem", sliding louvered blinds enclosing the open air porches or negative spaces of the buildings. The renovations which have been ongoing for several years are remarkable. Many of the renovated buildings appear to be pristiine in condition. Those buildiings with contemporary additions are done so that a clear and obvious distinction remains between the old and the new. Tel Aviv is THE MUST SEE city for modernists.
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