Israel's Architecture of Hope
by Lili Eylon
It was born in Germany. It flourished in Tel Aviv. The Bauhaus modernist movement saw light with the birth of the Weimar Republic, then it was extinguished in Germany with the demise of the republic.
The Bauhaus ideas, expressed mainly in architecture, were socially, economically, artistically, and technologically progressive. And they were anathema to the totalitarian, anti-humanistic Nazi regime. The Bauhaus school was therefore closed soon after the Nazis' rise to power, and its proponents persecuted.
But modernism in architecture refused to die. Instead, the new ideas found fresh, fertile ground when many of those who learned and created in this spirit, escaped persecution in the 1930s and left Germany for Tel Aviv, then in British-administered Palestine.
Tel Aviv was a young Jewish enclave adjacent to Jaffa, an ancient, crowded, oriental city with a commercial port. In 1908, a small group of Jewish pioneers had established the new city, later nicknamed, because of the color of its buildings "The White City."
The timing for the Bauhaus migration was perfect: a union was to be created between the need to build a new city and the eagerness of accomplished architects to translate their "newfangled" ideas into willing ground.
"The White City of Tel Aviv provides a unique capsule history of international modern architecture," says Nitza Szmuk, who heads the preservation team of the Tel Aviv Municipality. She is fighting hard to preserve some 1500 Bauhaus/ International structures in the city.
"Influenced by the Bauhaus, Le Corbusier, and Erich Mendelsohn," Szmuk says, "the architects who fled Europe in the 1930s created an architectural idiom to address climatic, regional, and traditional building issues. The city was constructed along modernistic lines and soon incorporated the largest early concentration of International Style architecture."
The House Boaz-Schwabe was built in 1935-36 by German-born Ze'ev (Wilhelm) Haller.
Photo: Irmel Kamp-Bandau, c/o Tel Aviv City Council Archive
Polish architect Arieh Sharon designed these workers' flats in the
mid-1930s. He had studied under Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyeer, Klee, Kandinsky, Albers, and Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus in Dessau.
Photo: Itzchak Kalter, Tel Aviv
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