New Images of Israel’s White City


I’VE BEEN A FAN OF TEL AVIV’S BAUHAUS-STYLE ARCHITECTURE at least since 1984, when a show at New York’s Jewish Museum made me aware of the design importance of the so-called “White City.” German Jewish architects influenced by the Bauhaus and LeCorbusier emigrated to Tel Aviv in great numbers in the 1930s, fleeing the Nazi rise to power. Erich Mendelsohn is probably the best-known of them; he and others brought International Style ideas of modernity to the construction of mostly low-rise apartment buildings, adapting their design principles to a hot climate.

Now Israeli artist Avner Gicelter has launched a website featuring meticulous graphic illustrations of 11 (so far) outstanding buildings throughout his beloved city. It’s an attractive resource and a useful document.


I’ve written before about Tel Aviv’s stock of 4,000 such modernist buildings, including an outraged letter to the New York Times Travel section after a writer summed up the city’s architecture as “awful.” Remembering a walking tour conducted by Israeli friends, I described the city’s back streets as “uniform blocks of characteristically flat-roofed, cubic structures with ribbons of balconies, or with sleek curves and rounded corners that rival anything in Miami’s South Beach for streamlined modernity.”

The city’s collection is impressive. Three districts were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, and Conde Nast Traveler magazine has called Tel Aviv one of the world’s best cities for architecture lovers. Some of the Bauhaus-style structures anchor broad boulevards, like the elegant Rothschild Boulevard, or encircle plazas like well-known Dizengoff Square. More line narrow side streets. Some have been carefully restored; others are still in an unfortunate state of disrepair. There’s an ongoing preservation battle.





All the above illustrations are from Gicelter’s website, where you can see more building images and subscribe to the continuing series.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.
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2 Responses to New Images of Israel’s White City

  1. andrea L. says:

    I agree that these are amazing buildings. Just saw them myself this summer. But it is very sad that they are falling into such disrepair, for the most part. Many people who live in them and can’t afford to keep them up. If they did, I’m sure they would be more well recognized by the average tourist (like in Miami) The city is creatively finding ways to sell zoning rights to other highrise developers but this is a one shot cash infusion and not a long term maintenance plan.

  2. cara says:

    Thanks for weighing in, Andrea. Yes, finding money to renovate and maintain the buildings has been a longstanding challenge. You seem plugged in to recent developments… I hope whatever creative measures the city takes doesn’t impact or endanger the low-rise setting.

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