Bauhaus in Tel Aviv - More than just white
a guest contribution by Dorothee Maier, Dipl.-Eng. FH
The history of the ‹White City› in Tel Aviv is well known in architectural circles and the sad reason why many of the Bauhaus students and architects had to emigrate as well. But the innovative and at the same time very pragmatic implementation of the Bauhaus idea is the other, positive side of the coin. Unimaginable for us Europeans who search Bauhaus works in cities, like needles in a haystack: in Tel Aviv 4,000 of these pearls are on the Mediterranean beach, sometimes hidden, often dirty but highly esteemed and admired in wonder!
From the 1920s, apartments were necessarily needed north of the old port of Jaffa, many apartments for many new citizens within a short time. Immigrants such as Arieh Sharon, Zeev Rechter, Dov Karmi, Richard Kauffmann or Genia Averbuch fulfilled the teachings of European avant-garde architects with built reality, and they built many of the approximately 4,000 Bauhaus buildings in the following years into the sandy dune landscape on the outskirts. This new living space was shaped by the ideas of modern architecture, as taught and represented by Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Hannes Meyer, Erich Mendelsohn and Le Corbusier.
Tel Aviv's reality shapes the ‹White City›
The local constraints of climate and subsoil required appropriate adaptations, but the concept ‹form follows function› met the given parameters in terms of costs, construction times and quality of use: no one needed flourishes in the desert – objectivity was required. Summer temperatures above 30°C in combination with very high humidity required high ceilings and well-placed windows for cooling and ventilation. Le Corbusier's horizontal streaked windows perfectly fulfilled these demands. Low balconies provided sufficient shade and, in their balustrades, horizontal slots were drawn in, so that the air circulates. Many of the staircases received ‹thermostat windows› with patent glazing. The name explains the look and the function alike. The roof terraces should be habitable and that is what regulated the roof shape. The highlight of the new settlement was the urban map of Sir Patrick Geddes from 1925. This plan provided a parcelling, in accordance with this, all the buildings were to be set individually. In addition, there was the requirement that it was mandatory to have green around each house to ensure cooling (breeze, evaporative cooling and shading). Closed block development or a connection of houses were not allowed. Now, 100 years later, this green has become a wonderful tree forest between the houses, which runs like a green network through the houses and boulevards, which generates shaded areas for picnics and gives the bustling city a sustain livable component.
These 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings, also known as ‹international style› or ‹classic modern›, make the city a worldwide Bauhaus metropolis. Since 2003, the Bauhaus ensemble has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing attention to itself. The accompanying expectation of taking care of the preservation of this heritage calls on the one hand the preservationists and on the other hand also the real estate speculators on the plan. Both with different interests.
Form follows life
Tel Aviv was born out of very pragmatic constraints and is thus very practically enlivened. What matters is that things work in the ‹here and now›, work well and that sufficient space for living remains. For luck depends historically on a thread and who knows what in 10 years’ time will be. As always, the houses – Bauhaus or not – are used and adapted to the needs of the residents and technical development. Inside, kitchens and bathrooms are enlarging, air conditioners hang on the façades such as parasites, balconies are shaded with blinds and the open electricity in the streets tells the story of progress in its own way. Put into simple words: the buildings are in use. ‹Form follows life›, one could say.
Although the general use of the famous world heritage is not museum-like, not even conservational, but once again very realistic, yet around 2,000 buildings are heritage-protected. On the one hand, this creates a sensitization and value setting in public perception, and secondly, it also creates a certain cultural pressure. In addition to the cultural, there is also a financial pressure: a lot of international money flows into the city, as an IT location, jobs are provided and thus move real estate and land prices. The houses of the ‹White City› are in demand on the housing market, ‹bauhaus> became a marketing term in the real estate industry with ‹additional price promise›.
Preservation is a pragmatic way of doing justice to both factors. How could it be otherwise? Divided into core and peripheral zones, there are different strict conditions for the rehabilitation of the ‹White City›. In order to make the construction economical, this was combined with the sale of construction rights. Depending on the classification of the house, this building law can be implemented on-site in the form of superstructures or, if the classification is particularly high, it must be redeemed elsewhere. Of the 4,000 Bauhaus houses, around 120 are so worth protecting that no roof structures are permitted. The focus of the editions are the façade design and the preservation of the character of the building. With this liberal pull-up, historic preservation allows a certain refinancing of the renovation work and simultaneously prevents the decline of the ‹White City›.
A monument - the White City Center
A building of the highest classification is currently developing a unique selling point in the series of Bauhaus pearls: in Liebling House on 29 Idelson St., the White City Center will be opened on Sept 19th 2019 in the context of the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus. This provides the ‹White City› a competence center for architecture, urban development and preservation – a German-Israeli network project.
«The Federal Ministry of the Interior, for construction and homeland (BMI) supports with the project ‹Center White Town Tel Aviv› the establishment of a center for monument-specific building and renovation, thus underlining the common historical and Baukultur significance of the ‹White City› for Germany and Israel. The Max Liebling House, built in 1936 to designs by architect Dov Karmi, by Max and Tony Liebling, which the city of Tel Aviv has provided for the bilateral project, will become a landmark and architectural center. In the future, house residents and homeowners will be made aware of how to deal with ‹their style› monument. Here, visitors, scientists, architects and craftsmen can exchange views. Here, the neighbourhood will get a meeting place, here is discussed, researched and taught in workshops old craft knowledge.»
Quote https://www.whitecitycenter.org/mehr-lesen-1 (Online 17.06.2019)
The official starting signal for the renovation in autumn 2017 was the broad-based campaign <Open for Renovation›. The house should be a pulse generator from the beginning and inspire people for the cause. Two of the driving forces in the White City Center are the architects Sharon Golan Yaron (monument authority) and Sabrina Cegla (curator at the White City Center). They have made the preservation of the Bauhaus heritage in Tel Aviv their mission. In the meantime, the campaign has seen many bilateral workshops on the transfer of know-how and craftsmanship. A lively exchange with German companies and craftsmen accompanies the renovation work on the building. Lectures with international guests also supported the public relations. With the contribution ‹the disappearance of living› by interior designer Dorothee Maier, the theme of modern living was presented and with it the colors of Le Corbusier. For what could be more obvious, the buildings of this time to put the colors of this time by the side. It is still surprising to listeners that Le Corbusier was a true color friend and his Architectural Polychromy works as a harmoniously coordinated kit for color and emotion.
As an architectural pilgrim in Tel Aviv, you are also surprised, because the ‹White City› is not as white as it is said to be. The white of the Bauhaus building often carries one or more colors and these are very well suited for the buildings!
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