In my last post, I clued you guys in to the annual celebration of White Night (Leyla Lavan) which takes place annually in Tel Aviv right around the beginning of summer. The all night celebration (it literally goes from 8 p.m. through sunrise) commemorates the prestigious honor of Tel Aviv being named the "White City" by UNESCO back in 2003. The notion of Tel Aviv being a "White City" is a reference to the Bauhaus architecture that is uniquely characteristic to the urban sprawl. As seen below, the Bauhaus style consists of tall white buildings with wide patios and small windows situated in such a way so as to maximize air flow.
Interestingly, the Bauhaus style is not uniquely Israeli at all. The form first debuted in pre-Nazi Germany, where it eventually died out and was ironically revived in post-war Israel as new immigrants flooded the area. Due to its German roots, some argue that the term Bauhaus be used only for reference to German-based architecture and that the Israeli architecture of the some model should be referred to as the International Style.
There are three main elements that typify the Bauhaus/International Style as indicated by architectural experts. The first is that the style shuns ornamentation and favors functionality. The second element preaches that asymmetry and regularity is preferred over symmetry. And thirdly, the Bauhaus Style grasps architecture in terms of space versus mass. Bauhaus buildings are usually cubic, favor right angles (although many feature rounded corners and balconies), have smooth facades and an open floor plan.
Though white facades were not in the original Bauhaus Style back in Germany, the new Bauhaus/International Style featured in Tel Aviv was resplendent with white surfaces. Thus, after decades of white Bauhaus buildings being built up over time, Tel Aviv eventually earned its nickname as the "White City", becoming an official moniker in 2003 thanks to UNESCO's honorary title gifting.
Today, there are about 1500 Bauhaus/International Style buildings throughout the Tel Aviv municipality. There are some specific adaptations to these buildings which were not existent in the original Bauhaus Style back in Germany. One of those adaptations includes the use of small windows. Large windows characterized the original style; however, large windows do not make sense in a hot climate where the sun's rays radiate through the glass, overheating the house. Thus, in Tel Aviv, you will find mostly small windows or thin, horizontal windows in order to keep the temperatures down indoors.
Another element adapted for the Tel Aviv Bauhaus/International Style is the use of stilt columns on which to situate the buildings. Stilts lift the building off the street level, allowing for a green garden to be placed below in which cool breezes can flow through, making for a nice outdoor space.
Yet another element that is specific to the Tel Avis Bauhaus/International Style is the structural element of flat roofs as opposed to shingled, slanted roofs typical in the European Bauhaus Style. In Tel Aviv, these flat roofs are used for rooftop decks, views and socializing which is a staple element of of the Tel Aviv beach culture.
Because maintaining and restoring the original Bauhaus structures from the early 1930's in Tel Aviv is costly and time-consuming, the city municipality has been abuzz with delight since UNESCO awarded them the honorary title of the "White City" back in 2003. Reason being that this organization pours millions of dollars into the mission of resurrecting the historic buildings. I hope now you have a better sense of the reason for the celebrations behind the nightlong festivities of "White Night" in Tel Aviv. If you're an architecture fan, I'm sure you will appreciate seeing this historic style through the images provided.
Tune in for the next post covering the exciting Water War, the follow-up event to the nightlong "White Night"!