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"White City" Apartments

Tel Aviv, Israel

2019 Q2

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This issue’s print of a sketch by Ladd P. Ehlinger, AIA is of a typical apartment building in the “White City” section of Tel Aviv. The “White City” is named so because most of the buildings in this section of the city are white and of concrete. Tel Aviv is home to probably the largest collection of Bauhaus or International Style buildings in the world - over 4,000 of them. There is some influence also of LeCorbusier, the Swiss radical architect of the period. The Bauhaus was a school of arts, crafts and architecture seeking a synthesis of all, founded by Walter Gropius in 1919. Hitler shut down the Bauhaus in 1933. Gropius came to America to Harvard to teach and practice into the 1950s.

This flowering of modern architecture occurred in Tel Aviv thanks to the mass immigration of German Jewish architects to the British Mandate of Palestine who were escaping Hitler in the early 1930s, many of whom were trained or taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany.

The “White City” section buildings are characterized by their adaptation of Bauhaus design to the local environment: rounded corners in many

instances to soften the shapes in the intense light, being lifted off the ground on round columns ("pilotis") to provide for air and play space,

constructed of reinforced concrete painted white or light colors to reflect the bright light, the balconies to catch the Mediterranean breezes

and provide shade, the flat roofs for added space in the evenings, and the windows smaller than those of northern Europe due to the more intense light, glare and heat in Israel. The most notable example of this style in New Orleans is the old “Blue Plate Foods” factory on Jefferson Davis Parkway that was recently converted to condominiums, and several houses in the old Metairie, Lakeview and Gentilly areas. There are no examples that I know of in Huntsville.

Tel Aviv (Hebrew meaning: “Hill of Spring”) was originally developed as a suburb of the port city of Jaffa beginning in 1909. Later, the Scottish urban planner, Sir Patrick Geddes, redesigned it as a garden city after he had designed New Delhi in India. The first Mayor of Tel Aviv, Meir Dizengoff, commissioned him in 1925 to begin work. Geddes did not decide on an architectural style, only the block plan and infrastructure. The style came from the emigrating architects.

The "White City" of Tel Aviv became a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site in 2003, proclaiming it "an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century." The citation recognized the adaptation of modern International Style (Bauhaus) architectural styles to the local cultural, climatic, and traditions of Tel Aviv.

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