THE 'WHITE CITY' — Tel Aviv’s Modern Movement
Opening on Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:00
Media conference 25 June 2009 11:00

The historic centre of Tel Aviv has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July 2003. The Israeli city on the seafront includes a unique ensemble of over 4000 houses in new functionalist style – a little known fact in this country – that have only recently been restored. Under the title The White City. Tel Aviv’s Modern Movement this exhibition organised by the City of Tel Aviv has been touring the world since 2004.

The Master Plan
In 1925 the Scottish urban planner Sir Patrick Geddes was commissioned to structure the then fledgling Tel Aviv settlement with a master plan. He envisaged a garden city with a strictly hierarchic traffic network, organically organised and including numerous public squares. In the course of its realisation the density of the project had to be heavily increased – not least to cater to the flood of immigrants to Tel Aviv between 1930 and 1935, increasing the population from 50,000 to 120,000 inhabitants. This notwithstanding, traces of Gedde's original plan can be seen in many places.

The Architecture
Many of the architects living in Tel Aviv were inspired in their designs by the formal language and examples of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Erich Mendelsohn. However it was not only the immigrant architects from Europe who had fled the economic and political crisis to Palestine that ensured Tel Aviv became – and to an extraordinary degree – an experimental arena for the basic principles of modern architecture. There were also Austrian architects who had enjoyed their training at the most highly reputed architecture colleges in Europe and so come into contact with the spirit of the new functionalist style and left their mark on the 'White City'. Of course the architectural language learned in Europe had to be adapted to suit the entirely different local climate: particularly noticeable in this context is the lack of large glazed surfaces and the increased use of balconies with parapets – features intended to help keep out the ocean heat.

Tel Aviv is the only city in the world with a centre almost completely built in new functionalist style. However today many of the buildings are urgently in need of renovation. Prof. Arch. Nitza Szmuk, for many years head of the Conservation Department at the Municipality of Tel Aviv and curator of the exhibition, has dedicated years to the conservation of this valuable heritage.

The Exhibition
Historic and contemporary photographs provide an insight into the architectural language of the time, showing the influence that the European heritage had on what was created there. The master plan of the Scottish urban planner Sir Patrick Geddes is presented in the form of plans and models as well as a selection of historic film footage which provides an animated image of the development of the city between 1920 and 1958. The diversity of surface quality and colours of different plaster are shown, as are precise analyses of the detail planning (e.g., the different types of balconies). Animated 3-D graphics of eleven representative buildings add depth to an understanding of the architecture of ’The White City‘. Almost 100 brief biographies of architects who worked in Tel Aviv round off the overall image.

Media partner: Frankfurter Rundschau
Herausgeber: © Deutsches Architekturmuseum Frankfurt a.M., Schaumainkai 43, 22.10.2014