The White City refers to a collection of over 4,000 Bauhaus or International style buildings built in Tel Aviv from the 1930s by German Jewish architects who immigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine after the rise of the Nazis. Tel Aviv has the largest number of buildings in this style of any city in the World. Preservation, documentation, and exhibitions have brought attention to Tel Aviv's collection of 1930s architecture. In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Tel Aviv's White City a World Cultural Heritage site, as "an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century." The citation recognized the unique adaptation of modern international architectural trends to the cultural, climatic, and local traditions of the city. The Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv organises regular architectural tours of the city.
Adaptation To Local Climate
However, the architecture had to be adapted to suit the extremes of the Mediterranean and desert climate. White and light colors reflected the heat. Walls not only provided privacy but protected against the sun. Large areas of glass that let in the light, a key element of the Bauhaus style in Europe, were replaced with small recessed windows that limited the heat and glare. Long narrow balconies, each shaded by the balcony above it, allowed residents to catch the breeze blowing in from the sea to the west. Slanted roofs were replaced with flat ones, providing a common area where residents could socialize in the cool of the evening.
Buildings were raised on pillars (pilotis), the first being the 1933 Engel House designed by Zeev Rechter. These allow the wind to blow under and cool the apartments, as well as providing a play area for children. In 1935, at the office building Beit Hadar, steel frame structure was introduced, a technique which facilitates opening the first floor for such purposes. The style of architecture and construction methods used in the hundreds of new buildings came to define the character of the modern city.
Most of the buildings were of concrete, reinforced concrete was often applied from 1912 on, and in the summer were unbearably hot despite their innovative design features. Tel Aviv’s residents took to the streets in the evenings, frequenting the numerous small parks between the buildings and the growing number of coffee shops, where they could enjoy the evening air. This tradition continues in the café society, and nightlife of the city today.
Many of the buildings from this period, some architectural classics, have been neglected to the point of ruin, and before legislation was passed, some were demolished. However, of the original 4,000 Bauhaus buildings built, some have been refurbished and at least 1,500 more are slated for preservation and restoration. The municipal government of Tel Aviv passed legislation in 2009 that covers some 1,000 structures.
The Bauhaus Museum was opened in Bialik Street, near the old City Hall in 2010.