As you land in Tel Aviv and prepare to take in all of its chromatic intensity, don’t forget to gaze at the aerial view of its sun-drenched skyline. Suddenly, it becomes clear how this vibrant metropolis earned the name of the White City, and its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tel Aviv was born as a suburb to the ancient port city of Jaffa and quickly blossomed into the unofficial commercial and cultural capital of Israel. Our Tel Aviv design guide will help you make the most of your visit, and truly appreciate all this city has to show off.
During the 1920s and 1930s, German-Jewish architects at the heart of the Bauhaus movement immigrated and defined the design of the city. By the mid-1930s, Tel Aviv was the only city in the world being built entirely in the International Style, and to this day it houses more Bauhaus, or International Style, architecture than any other city. As you wander through Tel Aviv, take in the richness of a city so multi-colored and diverse – but don’t leave without appreciating the essence of the White City and its architectural design of “outstanding universal value” that earned it UNESCO’s coveted designation generally reserved for more antiquated sites.
Lovingly preserved and restored Bauhaus buildings can be seen throughout the city. Nearly all are architectural landmarks, protected by the municipality, which offers subsidies to owners for carefully monitored renovations. Many of these buildings have been reborn into boutique hotels and restaurants, retaining their heritage while embracing the ever-changing city they represent. A beautiful example is the Cinema Hotel on Dizengoff Square, a popular boutique hotel that pays homage to its former life as the Esther Cinema by showcasing artifacts and screening films in the lobby. The best way to explore Tel Aviv while learning about its design history is to join an architecture tour.
When Patrick Geddes created Tel Aviv’s first master plan in the late 1920s, he envisioned Habima Square as the cultural core of Tel Aviv. Oscar Kaufman designed Habima Theater, the heart of the square, in the International Style and completed its construction between 1935-1945. In 1952, the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art and the Frederic R. Mann Auditorium, home of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, were both established. Habima Square is undoubtedly Tel Aviv’s cultural center, and while the theater offers a variety of entertainment options, the sunken gardens are the most popular attraction for locals who enjoy congregating on the wooden steps, not unlike Parisiens laying out blankets beneath the Eiffel tower.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
No Tel Aviv Design Guide would be complete without the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – a must-see for design lovers. It is composed of three buildings: the Main Building on Shaul HaMelech Boulevard, the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, and the Herta and Paul Amir Building. The museum was born in 1932 as the Tel Aviv Museum, when the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, envisioned Tel Aviv’s future as a cosmopolitan cultural hub. Dizengoff donated the lower floor of his apartment at 16 Rothschild Boulevard and used his connections around the world to secure the works of Chagall and Modigliani, among many others. On Friday, May 14th, 1948, the state of Israel’s Declaration of Independence was proclaimed at the museum, and thus commenced the beginning of a new chapter in its history.
In 1959, the opening of the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion marked the museum’s metamorphosis from a local urban museum to a member of the global artistic and cultural scene. The museum’s main building was inaugurated in 1971 to include a variety of cultural institutions, such as the Beit Ariella Public Library, the Cameri Theater, and the Performing Arts Center, home of the Israeli Opera. The Herta and Paul Amir building was added in 2011, designed by American architect Prof. Preston Scott Cohen, in collaboration with Israeli project architect Amit Nemlich, following an international architecture competition. The museum embodies the architectural evolution of the White City, from 1950s late Modernism to the Brutalist architecture that dominated the 1970s, and culminating in the postmodernist and digital architecture of the 1990s.
Pastel – Dining For Design Lovers
Our Tel Aviv Design Guide can’t forget the ultimate design lovers experience – a meal at Pastel. After satisfying your art and design appetite at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, don’t miss out on the opportunity to dine in one of the White City’s best restaurants. Situated in the Herta and Paul Amir building, Pastel is an architectural triumph in its own right. Israeli architects Alon Baronowitz and Irene Kronenberg beat over 4,000 architects from 35 countries to claim the International Space Design Award-Idea Tops competition for Best Design of Dining Space (2014). Not content with simply being beautiful, Pastel boasts a sumptuous menu, impeccable service, and a secret speak-easy style bar for those in-the-know. Indulge in an experience that embodies the White City on a plate: clean canvases with splashes of delectable color. Truly the perfect way to end your design tour of Tel Aviv.