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Characteristics of the International Style in Tel Aviv and its identity
as a "White City"

"Togetherness": Interrelations between "Private" and "Public"


The architects who studied and worked in Europe came to Israel carrying the message of the International Style. Arieh Sharon, Ze'ev Rechter, Joseph Neufeld, Dov Carmi, Benjamin Chlenov, Carl Rubin, Shmuel Barkai, and other architects settled in Tel Aviv, playing an active role in the 1930s construction boom. Although they worked separately, they collaborated and united to form a group aimed at promoting architecture in Israel and disseminating the cause of new architecture. They published several magazines and successfully infiltrated into the urban construction team.

The process of urban planning in 1930s Tel Aviv was characterized not only by the productive collaboration among architects, but also between architects and their clients. In his book Kibbutz+Bauhaus, architect Arieh Sharon recounts how members of the cooperatives for whom he designed Me'onot Ovdim (workers' housing cooperative) would discuss and comment on the plans, describing the active, attentive contact with them throughout the planning phase. The depicted sense of "togetherness" and collectivity was well anchored in the climate of the Jewish community (Yishuv) in Israel at the time. The needs of the "public" or "collective" as a whole were more important than the "individual"'s uniqueness. These values influenced architectural planning, and as attested by the following examples, they were manifested in the buildings themselves: by employing the clear-cut formal vocabulary of the new architecture, a homogenous tissue of buildings was created, representing a society where "individual" manifestation is not personal and singular, but rather uniform and similar to the manifestations of all other "individuals" comprising society.

The residential buildings were, in part, lifted up on pilotis, creating underneath a space which was an extension of the street space - the artery of public life. An "intermediate space" was created between public street life and residents' private lives. The buildings referred to a lesser extent to backyards or side-yards, and greater attention was given to the design of facades and courtyards facing the street. Balconies served as a primary element characterizing the composition of the facades of International Style buildings in Tel Aviv. They were certainly an efficient solution for getting fresh air on hot summer nights, but on the architectural level they also functioned as an "intermediate space" or an "extension" of the apartment, which is a "private domain", into the street space which is "public domain". International Style buildings introduced the experience of "balcony facing balcony" so typical of Tel Aviv, whose present traces are the "plastic shutter facing plastic shutter"

One of Le Corbusier's five points underlying the "new style" proposed designating building roofs as gardens for residents' use. In Tel Aviv most roofs were indeed intended for tenants' use, yet instead of gardening, communal laundry rooms were constructed.