Tel Aviv 'White City'

Architecture in Israel

So the Tel Aviv ‘White City’ is a collection of over 4,000 buildings built in a unique form of the International Style in Tel Aviv from the 1930s, with a strong Bauhaus component; by Jewish architects from Germany and other Central and East European countries with German Cultural influences; who immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine after the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany. In fact, Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in the Bauhaus/International Style of any city in the world.

Furthermore, the preservation, documentation, and exhibitions have brought attention to Tel Aviv’s collection of 1930s architecture. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Tel Aviv’s White City a World Cultural Heritage site, as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century.” The citation recognized the unique adaptation of modern international architectural trends to the city’s cultural, climatic, and local traditions. Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv organizes regular architectural tours of the city.

The Story Behind Tel Aviv ‘White City’

The concept for a new garden city, to be called Tel Aviv, was developed on the sand dunes outside Jaffa in 1909. Scottish urban planner Patrick Geddes, who had previously worked on town planning in New Delhi; was commissioned by Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, to draw up a master plan for the new city. So Geddes began work in 1925 on the plan, which was accepted in 1929. The view of the British Mandatory authorities seemed to have been supportive. In addition to Geddes, and Dizengoff, the city engineer Ya’acov Ben-Sira contributed significantly to the development and planning during his 1929 to 1951 tenure.

Jewish Architects of the Bauhaus School in Germany Leavve to Palestine

Patrick Geddes laid out the streets and decided on block size and utilization. Geddes did not prescribe an architectural style for the buildings in the White City. But by 1933, many Jewish architects of the Bauhaus school in Germany; like Arieh Sharon, fled to the British Mandate of Palestine. Both the emigration of these Jewish architects and the closing of the Bauhaus school in Berlin were consequences of the rise to power of the Nazi party in Germany in 1933.

The residential and public buildings were designed by these architects, and by architects born locally including Ben-Ami Shulman, who put the principles of modern architecture into practice. The Bauhaus principles, with their emphasis on functionality and inexpensive building materials, were perceived as ideal in Tel Aviv. The architects fleeing Europe brought not only Bauhaus ideas; the architectural ideas of Le Corbusier were also mixed in.

Furthermore, Erich Mendelsohn was not formally associated with the Bauhaus, though he had several projects in Israel in the 1930s as did Carl Rubin, an architect from Mendelsohn’s office. In the 1930s in Tel Aviv, many architectural ideas were converging and Tel Aviv was the ideal place for them to be tested.

Adaptations to the Local Climate

However, the architecture had to be adapted to suit Tel Aviv’s weather like the extremes of the Mediterranean and desert climate. For example, white and light colors reflected the heat. In addition, the Walls not only provided privacy but protected against the sun. Large areas of glass that let in the light, a key element of the Bauhaus style in Europe; were replaced with small recessed windows that limited the heat and glare. Furthermore, long, narrow balconies, each shaded by the balcony above it; allowed residents to catch the breeze blowing in from the sea to the west. Last. pitched roofs were replaced with flat ones; providing a common area where residents could socialize in the cool of the evening.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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