Tour Locations | The White City
LOCATION 7 | The White City
Stop here at the corner of Frug st. and Gnesin st.
Straight ahead, directly across the road is the Thermometer House.
You'll recognize it thanks to the architectural element resembling a thermometer stretching along the facade of the building. We’ll use this building to explain the concepts developed in the Bauhaus School in Germany and how they turned into a vernacular architecture here in Tel Aviv in the 1930s.
The Bauhaus School was established in Germany in 1919 - right after the end of the First World War. Shocked by the catastrophe in which millions lost their lives, European intellectuals were trying to find answers. How did we let this disaster happen? What can we do to prevent it from repeating itself?
Artists, designers and architects in the Bauhaus School concluded that the First World War was fought because of extreme nationalism. National pride was abused to instigate barbaric mutual destruction. The only way to guard against nationalism is to get rid of it altogether, they thought.
Architects of the Bauhaus school stripped their designs of any cultural symbol, of any aesthetic form that could have been attributed to one nationality or another. Their buildings were no longer “German” or “French” or “British”, but simply international. For that reason, they named their newfound aesthetic language “the International Style”.
With local history, cultural elements and national symbols out the window, modern architecture adhered to a new principle: form follows function. The purpose of a residential building is simply to provide housing. It is not supposed to glorify the owner of the house, nor provide a cultural statement. Architectural ornaments and building symmetry, the pride of former architectural styles, became obsolete, contributing essentially nothing to the true purpose of the building. Therefore, the aesthetics of International Style buildings consist only of clean horizontal lines.
The architects who designed buildings in the International Style planned their buildings to be functional – “a machine to live in”. The windows along the staircase were designed to provide natural light and ventilation. The long balconies were planned such that they would be shaded throughout the entire day. In 1930s Tel Aviv – a Mediterranean city with no air conditioners – the functionality of the International Style was very appropriate. It was brought to the Land of Israel in the 1930s by Jewish architects who fled Nazi Germany.
The Thermometer House is a fantastic example of the White City of Tel Aviv. Now that you’re familiar with the concepts of the International Style architecture, you can spot Bauhaus inspired buildings on your own. Look for functionality, simplicity and asymmetry as we continue our tour.
Let's keep moving.
When you're ready, turn left into Gnesin Street and keep going.