I’ve decided to put pictures in this time, first of all because it’s much easier to show, rather than tell about, Bauhaus architecture, and also because when I try to email pictures home, my mail account screams at me and takes forever. There are also some cool Spider-man and rooftop photos.
As yesterday was Friday, which is the equivalent of Saturday, I decided to sacrifice my precious sleeping privileges and take a tour, under the auspices of the Bauhaus Center of Tel Aviv. This style of architecture, technically known as the “International Style” is incredibly prolific here, because the city was built in a culture and time when the architecture and ideology were quite popular. (A side-note: I’m being spoiled. I haven’t had real week-ends since … tenth grade, and the concept of not having to do anything is mindblowing.) In fact, Tel Aviv is known as “the White City” – pity there’s no resemblance to Minas Tirith – and as the Bauhaus Capital of the world. In 2003 it was designated a UNESCO heritage site. But what exactly is Bauhaus?
Tel Aviv was built as a garden suburb of the port city of Yafo, or Jaffa, or Joppa, in the ’20’s and ’30’s. In this period, the emerging ideas of socialism were looking very good (on paper), and architects and artists at the Bauhaus Schools in Germany were designing according to these ideals; those of function over form, using a lot of metal, concrete, and other ‘modern’ materials, and everything must be mass-producible. Bauhaus (meaning “worker’s house”, which was what the laborers’/artisans’ quarters at a major construction site were called) is not restricted to architecture; it’s an entire school of design. For example, this chess set was designed in that style:
The pieces are designed according to what movements they can make. Since it may only move diagonally, the bishop is an X shape. The knight, for the same reason, is an L shape, and the rook is a cube. The multidirectional queen is round, and the king a skewed cube, as he is multidirectional but limited. Quite clever, I think – it appeals to my engineering side, but not to my traditional side.
This apartment building was designed by the architect who drew the plans for the in-progress National Theater in Tel Aviv. The theater influence is quite clear. Also clear is the Bauhaus use of plaster – in fact, three different types are on this building, intentionally – and the strong horizontal lines. Another element is the interplay of light and shadow. That’s also apparent in this picture:
Being socialists, the artists didn’t want anybody getting ideas about flying away; the horizontals keep the buildings close to earth. A trademark of the Bauhaus style is having mostly horizontal lines, broken by a vertical line of windows where the interior staircase is. This lets light and air – important when air-conditioning hadn’t been invented – into the stairwell, which is an important communal fraternization area. Sorry. Just had to throw in some polysyllabic words.
The tiles on this building were brought with immigrants from Europe, as were a lot of door- and window-sills. Balconies are very important; they allow communication with the street, as well as an outdoor area for families to sit and enjoy the evening breeze. Many Jews came to Israel and Tel Aviv from hostile areas, so just knowing that they could leave their windows open and talk to friends on the street gave a great feeling of security, and of being home. The round porthole-style windows are a ship motif that is quite popular here. For instance, this building unabashedly copies a ship:
The idea behind the ships is the idea of modernity. This was an age when oceanliners symbolized progress; think of the motivation behind “floating cities” such as the “unsinkable” Titanic and her sisters Olympic and Britannic. Apparently there was a bit of a row over the inclusion of curves in the architecture; here function sacrifices a little – but not much – to form. Here’s another ship motif:
As a reference to the bow of a ship, the roof-structure is unmistakable. As the tour guide said: “Remember that thing in the movie Titanic, with Leonardo diCaprio and what’s-her-face, where he’s standing, yelling ‘I’m the king of the world!’?” Sorry. Thought that was funny.
I took this picture because of the four different styles of architecture. You can see the ship-bow complex, and to its left is an apartment built in the ’50’s or ’60’s, in the style known as “Brutalism”. It was supposed to imitate Bauhaus, but be cheaper and quicker to build, because of the immigrant influx. The tower in the background is the Dizengoff, and the building on the far left was built in 1993, incorporating a lot of triangular structures, steel, and glass.
Finally, this is known as the “Thermometer Building”, due to the unique structure of the staircase windows:
I took a lot more photos, which I shall post on FB. Yes, Dad, I took a look through the giftshop.
A reflective tic-tac-toe set; sweet!
Apparently the reflective thing is popular.
Menorahs and dreidles, Bauhaus-style.
After the tour I went to the Azrieli center, to check it out and finally see the Bourne Ultimatum, which is known here as A Lost Identity, which only slightly makes sense. Awesome movie, completely disregards the plot of the awesome book.
On the roof of the center, they had a promo thing set up for the forthcoming S3 DVD release (there’s a Spidey-playground inside):
An upwards shot of the Azrieli towers from the roof. The towers are round, square, and triangular.
A cool fountain which had just been turned off for Shabbat. It’s supposed to be an Israeli pilot quenching his thirst.
Personally, I don’t think the Bauhaus style is attractive, but the reason I took the tour was so I’d have a better understanding of what I see every day. Right now, construction is leaning more towards the familiar steel-and-glass skyscrapers, although there are some really beautiful condos in Lamed and Gimel quarters that are tinted glass and lots of stone. I’ll take some pictures sometime.
A quick note about Middle-Eastern food. Awesome amazing. I’m really getting into this pita-falafel-humus-onion-cabbage-mushroom-cucumber thing. Eggplant – so-so. Some of these street stands are really great, and cheap.
I have ranted long enough, so I shall just leave you with this random quote: “Architecture is the art of how to waste space.” – Phillip Johnson (Insofar as any thought went into the selection, I picked it to show that I am not becoming an Archie.)