Tel Aviv’s White City

Tel Aviv’s White City

Germany’s Bauhaus found fertile ground in Tel Aviv, giving rise to an entire district based on the movement’s ideals.

Published: June 20, 2013 (Issue # 1764)


Yehuda Raphael Magidovitch’s Dizengoff Cinema from 1939.

The State Hermitage Museum last week opened its “White City: Bauhaus Architecture in Tel Aviv” exhibition, dedicated to the heritage of 1930-40s architecture in Tel

Aviv, particularly its Bauhaus formation. Continuing until Sept. 15, the exhibition includes includes aerographics, photos, maps, models, video-films and 3-D visualizations.

Bauhaus was a famous German architecture school founded in Weimar in 1919 that gave rise to a movement that changed the idea of architecture. With a focus on function and mass production, its new take on architec-

ture contrasted with the city planning of the time and quickly attracted international attention. Famous lecturers at the school included Paul Klee, Oscar Schlemmer and Wassily Kandinsky.

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Bauhaus was closed because it was considered a front for communists and social liberals who produced “degenerate art.” As a result, the ma jority of its architects moved to Palestine, where they were able to continue their architectural experiments. Today, Tel Aviv houses the largest number of Bauhaus-style buildings in a single place. Known as White City, it consists of more than 4,000 buildings and, in 2004, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The buildings in Tel Aviv combine the Bauhaus style with a traditional Mediterranean architectural style. Architects here also based their ideas on Le Corbusier’s Modulor, a proportional measurement system.

The buildings were adapted to the desert climate by replacing large ex panses of glass, a key feature of Euro pean Bauhaus, with small recessed windows, and slanted roofs were changed to flat ones. The white color, that inspired the name of the area, was chosen because of how it reflected the heat.

White City forms the central part of Tel Aviv and is based on a master plan by British urban theorist Patrick Geddes, renowned for his innovative ideas on urban planning the like of which had never been seen in Tel Aviv.

Throughout the exhibition, the public can read further information about the architects, some of whom are Russian. To help further promote the area as a World Heritage Site, the aim of the exhibition is to “ensure the need to preserve these buildings, which is a fundamental premise to the preservation of the spirit and image of the city in the future,” organizers said. Houses of cubical shapes and wavy lines can be seen in the photos on display and seem uninhabitable under the scorching sun of the Israeli desert. The lack of color in these buildings also resembles Santiago Calatrava’s architectural wonders, which were also influenced by Le Corbusier. However, unlike the usual Bauhaus geometrical forms, Calatrava’s projects are known for their complex technical constructions, airy design and use of glass.

The Calatrava exhibition, which occupied the Nikolaevsky Hall of the Hermitage Museum last year, proved to be very popular and consisted of nearly 150 models, some of which could move.

Both exhibitions form part of the Hermitage 20/21 program, which began in 2007. With the aim of bringing modern art to the St. Petersburg art scene, organizers have already exhibited works by Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, Annie Leibovitz and Dmitry Prigov, as well as artwork from the Pompidou museum in Paris. The museum’s biggest exhibition space, the General Staff Building, was opened less than a year ago with a temporary exhibit titled “Jake and Dinos Chapman. The End of Fun.”

“Contemporary art can be called a mirror of contemporary culture, which reflects all of us. That’s why Hermitage 20/21 is addressed to those who want to keep up with the times — from amateurs and professionals, to the most sophisticated connoisseurs and young viewers,” said Mikhail Piotrovsky, the museum’s director.

“White City” is part of the Days of Tel Aviv in St. Petersburg, which is aimed at promoting Tel Aviv to the public. The wide program also includes music and dance performances as well as business events around the city. “White city. Bauhaus Architecture in Tel Aviv” is on view until Sept. 15 at the General Staff Building, the State Hermitage Museum. Full program details of the Days of Tel Aviv in St. Petersburg festival can be found at

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