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Bauhaus Boom

The wave of European Jewish immigration between 1933 and 1939 brought many architects from Germany’s Bauhaus School to British Mandate Palestine. With an emphasis on functionality and low-cost, the Bauhaus International Style was perfect for building up Tel Aviv, simply and quickly. Israel’s hot climate required a few adjustments to the architectural style, but the stilted columns that mark the entranceways with room for public spaces, flat roofs, narrow window strips and tightly curved balconies designed to provide ventilation as well as sun protection make for a distinctive look throughout the city.

Tel Aviv’s UNESCO status has established a landmarking and restoration process for many of these historical buildings. When they are restored and returned to their previous glory, they represent the embodiment of the energy and goals of the new city in pre-state Israel. They are also a reminder of the origins of those early European settlers who looked upon the building and settling of the new city of Tel Aviv as a socialist goal as much as a necessary one.

Bauhaus architecture became less popular during the 1950s as building styles changed. Israel continued to need quick and easy solutions for a growing population and much of the residential buildings of the period are concrete slabs, with little attempt at detail or ornamentation. In some ways, the emphasis on form and function of these worker’s compounds was an outgrowth of those Bauhaus beliefs, but the beauty of the Bauhaus buildings – the sleekness and smart design elements that made them both attractive and easy to live in – had been lost.

Look for the recognizable elements of Bauhaus architecture on your trip to Israel. In Jerusalem and Haifa as well as Tel Aviv, you’ll see examples of public buildings, private residences as well as later, less elegantly designed buildings, that bear the local stamp of this influential, international style.

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* Jewish Heritage Tours

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