With its unique history and heritage Jerusalem is the Israeli city that traditionally grabs the world’s attention, while the metropolis that is the center of the country’s cultural and business life – Tel Aviv – often gets overlooked.
But this year, Tel Aviv has stolen the spotlight, with the announcement of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of its intention to declare Tel Aviv a World Heritage Site for its treasure of Bauhaus architecture.
Tel Aviv’s White City is home to more buildings in the Bauhaus – or Modern Movement – style than anywhere in the world.
The city will be inaugurated as a World Heritage Site next month, with a series of festive events over the course of three days marking the declaration and celebrating Bauhaus culture. International dignitaries and leading architects from around the world will be in attendance, and efforts are being made to bring special international guest such as the Mohammed Sagid, the mayor of Casablanca, Morocco, and Great Britain’s Prince Charles, who is a well-known advocate of architectural preservation.
The declaration is a cause for celebration: it is a unique honor afforded to only a handful of sites in the world, such as the Egyptian pyramids, and it has never been given to an entire neighborhood as it has in Tel Aviv.
As part of the World Heritage Convention treaty adopted by UNESCO in 1972, the organization works to protect and preserve cultural and natural sites around the world considered of outstanding value to humanity. More than 170 countries to date have adhered to the Convention, making it one of the most universal international legal instruments for the protection of the cultural and natural heritage.
“In these challenging times, receiving this extraordinary honor from UNESCO not only helps preserve our rich architectural heritage, but also reaffirms Tel Aviv’s place on the map as a choice cultural destination,” said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
The White City of Tel Aviv includes 4,000 buildings representative of the Modern Movement – a synthesis of architectural styles popular in Europe during the early 20th century, heavily influenced by the Bauhaus School of Art and Design.
These buildings, built between 1931-1956, were designed by immigrant architects trained in Europe who adapted the Modern style to suit Tel Aviv’s culture and climate. Arieh Sharon, Dov Carmi, Zeev Rechter, Pinchas Hueth, Josef Neufeld, Genia Averbuch Richard Kauffmann and Erich Mendelsohn are just some of the architects, who contributed to the local abundance of Bauhaus architecture.
The City of Tel Aviv was founded in 1909, with Jaffa joining the municipality in 1949. The White City was constructed based on an urban plan by Sir Patrick Geddes. Tel Aviv-Jaffa is home to 400,000 residents, spread over an area of 33 square miles.
According to the UNESCO criteria for being declared a World Heritage Sit, “the White City of Tel Aviv is a synthesis of outstanding significance of the various trends of the Modern Movement in architecture and town planning in the early part of the 20th century. Such influences were adapted to the cultural and climatic conditions of the place, as well as being integrated with local traditions.”
The centerpiece of the upcoming events will be the official Declaration of World Heritage Site by Marco Barbosa, UNESCO Deputy Director General, Official ceremony and unveiling of Tel Aviv’s World Heritage Site plaque at Tel Aviv City Hall on June 7, in front of the mayor of Tel Aviv, UNESCO officials and visiting foreign dignitaries.
But the special events will cover an entire week. The first day of celebrations will be called ‘Schoolchildren in White,’ in which elementary school students throughout Tel Aviv will wear white and their schoolday will be devoted to learning about their city’s architectural heritage.
A special lighting installation will be erected along Rothschild Boulevard, the heart of the White City, showcasing the city’s Modern architecture, and an outdoor photography exhibit of Bauhaus renovation process, showing buildings then and now. will be hung from trees along Hen Boulevard.
The first in a series of sidewalk markers along the perimeter of the White City will be unveiled.
During the week, an exhibit on urban planning and the evolution of Tel Aviv’s architectural style will be held, along with an Architectural Conference with leading global architects will take place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Finally, ‘The White Regatta’ will be held: a boat race for sailboats and yachts – from Jaffa to Herzliya.