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White City

One hundred years after the foundation of the hugely influential Bauhaus school in Weimar by Walter Gropius, Stefan Boness documents the eclectic architectural intricacies of Tel Aviv, one of the greatest concentrations of Bauhaus architecture in the world.

Founded in 1909 as the first 'Jewish City' to be established in Palestine as part of the burgeoning Zionist project, Tel Aviv (meaning 'Spring Mound') was intended as a symbol of revival and modernity. Located directly north of the ancient city of Yaffo and facing out onto the eastern Mediterranean it was meant as a counterpoint to the weighty conservatism of Jerusalem further inland.

With the rise of Nazism in Germany in the late 1920 and 1930s, a steady stream of young, adventurous architects started to arrive in Palestine who were to find a perfect laboratory for the modernist principles of the Bauhaus school - closed by the Nazis in the 1930s - in this 20th century city. In due course they were to build the densest concentration of Bauhaus architecture in the world, now commonly known as 'The White City'. Today, more than 4,000 Bauhaus buildings survive in Tel Aviv's city centre which, in 2003, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The collection of Bauhaus and so-called international style buildings represents an outstanding example of town planning and urban development nowhere else achieved with such consistency and scope.

Bauhaus architectural style stands out for its combination of elegance, simplicity and functionality. Renowned architects, such as Arieh Sharon (formely Ludwig Kurzmann), who had emigrated from Europe and were often inspired by socialist ideals, made Tel Aviv something of a testing ground for the ideological principles and architectural styles espoused by the Bauhaus school and other modernist styles.

Original Bauhaus features had to be modified in various ways to adapt to the different climatic conditions of the Mediterranean. Among the unique stylistic characteristics of Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv are, for example, long narrow balconies constructed in a way that allows cooling winds coming from the sea to pass along the building. Shaded, flat roofs used as communal areas and buildings built on a set of stilts further enhanced the utility of these buildings and adapted them to the Middle Eastern climate. Windows with large glass fronts, a common feature of the Bauhaus style in Europe, were replaced with smaller windows to avoid the heat.

Stefan Boness captured some of the essential, defining characteristics of this unique architectural experiments.

This project has been published as a book by ACC Art Books in Germany and is available HERE.
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