Ninety-Nine Years in White

An Exhibition at The Architekturzentrum Wien Celebrates The Bauhaus Buildings and City Planners of Tel Aviv

Engel House,1934 (above); Pashtuzky House, 1935 (left); Dizengoff Square, 1935 (below) | Photos: Nitza Metzger-Szmuk, Dwelling on the dunes

Engel House,1934  Dizengoff Square, 1935 (below) | Photo: Nitza Metzger-Szmuk

A brilliant, bright-blue sky looks down at the nearly 4,000 snow-white cubic buildings on the shore of the Mediterranean – an enormous urban ensemble of Bauhaus architecture designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2003. This is Tel Aviv, a young city in the New Functionalist Style.

In a current exhibition at the Architektur-zentrum Wien, historic and contemporary photographs of Tel Aviv, the master plan and a series of 3-D graphics provide an overview of the White City’s design and vivid ambience.

Often flat and functional in other cities, the simple, highly formalized style, free of decorations, is stunning in the Israeli capital, probably both because of the number of similar buildings and constant sunshine reflected on the white plaster surfaces. Perfectly razor-sharp shadows cut across the walls, turning the city into something like Pierre Cardin’s famous geometric dresses.

As the only city in the world with a center built almost completely in this New Functionalist Style, Tel Aviv fascinates visitors with its bright clarity of line and a feeling of youthful energy.  The city was founded in 1909 as a the small district “Ahuzat Beit” on the sand dunes near the ancient city of Yafo, and expanded after 1925 according to a master plan of Scottish architect Patrick Geddes that turned the sand dunes into a “garden city” with a grid system of avenues, streets and public parks.

Pashtuzky House, 1935 | | Photo: Nitza Metzger-Szmuk

In the 1930s, the city began to grow with immigration. Among the newcomers were several young architects like Arieh Sharon, Genia Averbuch, Richard Kauffmann and Erich Mendelsohn who brought the dominant European Bauhaus style. The location and climate of Tel Aviv also influenced the construction, adapting European architectural trends to Mediterranean conditions. The city thus became an unprecedented experiment in modern architecture that continues to this day.

The rather ascetic design of this exhibition, however, is not likely to recreate the reality of Tel Aviv for a viewer, who is not likely to feel the fresh sea breezes or clean heat of the Mediterranean sun; neither does it give the feeling of the city’s energy and life. But it does give a clear and highly professional explanation of the city’s architecture, and suggests that the
aesthetics of the New Functionalist Style deserves attention.

The exhibition will be on display in Vienna until May 8, 2008, mounted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel. The exhibition was organized by the City of Tel Aviv and since 2004 is on tour through major cities around the world.


The White City of Tel Aviv

– Tel Aviv’s Modern Movement

21.02. – 19.05.2008

Architekturzentrum Wien

7., Museumsplatz 1

(01) 522 31 15 23

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