tel aviv's urban architecture by keshet rosenblum tel aviv's urban architecture by keshet rosenblum
nov 30, 2013

tel aviv's urban architecture by keshet rosenblum

tel aviv’s urban architecture by keshet rosenblum
helena rubinstein museum
photo by or kaplan




the ‘dolphinarium’ building located on the tel aviv promenade was established in the mid-80s, but it will soon be demolished in order to connect the boardwalk of tel aviv with jaffa, an ancient port city. this is the result of what was supposed to be the first phase of the greatest marine park in israel. those of us who grew up in the 80’s still remember the souvenir booths, the big aquariums and the holy grail of any visit – the dolphin show, jumping with their flippers, spitting water and jumping through the loops. as a matter of fact, it all seemed pretty outdated even then.



tel aviv port
photo by or kaplan




the brilliant mind behind this peculiar idea was nahum zolotov, a talented architect and an amateur diver who convinced a local investor to make his fantasy come true. with his late-modern style, zolotov created a sequence of unique buildings with rounded lines made of concrete – a common material for israeli building. but the audience grew tired of the concept, perhaps even quicker than the dolphins themselves, and so, within a few years the ‘dolphinarium’ was deserted. after severe damage by a suicide bomber back in 2000, the place never got renovated and soon will be completely demolished and become part of the boardwalk across the seashore, spanning from bat-yam, a beach city south of tel aviv, all the way to hertzliya, in between tel aviv and the northern city of haifa.



‘atarium square’
photo by or kaplan




any building across tel aviv’s seashore (which is infinitely dear to the hearts of citizens and visitors) is a great source of emotional public discussions that usually reach high tones. one mile north of the ‘dolphinarium’ stands another white-elephant (or rather grey), the brutalist structure designed by yosef werner weetcover and yaakov rechter in 1975. their building – named ‘atarim square’ – is an ambitious typology that’s used to be a shopping and entertainment centre above a bustling road, creating a wide rising ramp which hides the sea in a quite annoying manner. atarim square had a few years of grace, but eventually lost any legitimate commerce and it’s considered as one of the most unsuccessful projects ever made in tel-aviv.


however, not only post-modern fantasies dissolve against the sea, also a small structure in jaffa’s port that was used for customs in the british mandate was marked to be demolished in order to become, also, a part of the boardwalk. indeed, it is a building that has historical value and it is used today by sea-scouts.



‘habima theatre’
photo by or kaplan




the way in which the entire area will be flattened also makes tempers flare. a project that is a part of the agenda in the past few months is the development of the  boardwalk, supervised by architects maizlish kassif. the construction work is supposed to make the beaches that were separated from the seashore by aggregate wall, an integral part of the city by using levels made out of wood and concrete descending gradually into the beach, and allowing great accessibility to the disabled, thus standardizing all the beaches allowing a place for the crowd to easily sit next to the seashore. although the part of the project already completed has gained popularity amongst tel avivians, it was determined that the rest of the project will be decided in a process open to the public at the town hall.



‘habima theatre’
photo by or kaplan




maybe it’s the wind from the sea whispering across the city that is just asking to open, flatten, simplify anything it’s crossing by: in the last decade many of the city’s main boulevards, which were plain dusty roads until then, changed into main crossings for pedestrians and bicycles, with plenty of shadow and nurtured with flowers, and old pavilions along them became popular coffee houses. yet many of them, just like the ones on the seashore – were destroyed in favor of a better view of the horizon.



‘habima theatre’
photo by or kaplan




there are three public structures between rothschild boulevard (that became famous as the epicenter of the 2011’s summer israeli social justice protests) to chen boulevard – ‘heichal hatarbut’, ‘habima theater’ and ‘helena rubinstein museum’ (part of the tel-aviv museum), the first two have been widely renovated in the last few years making many headlines. the band square and the hidden jacob garden were renovated as well, and these renovations give us some information of the pros and cons of the up-to-date trends of the public space design.



habima theatre
photo by or kaplan




the project changed the band square, which used to be a an ugly parking lot for many years and turned it into an elegant underground parking lot while making the ground into a proper square, paved with white stone, designed by sculptor dani karavan. mixed with the israeli sun, the dazzling effect is not such a great attraction during the day, but during twilight the place becomes a sweet spot for parents and their children, sitting in a small garden immersed in the ground that has gentle music coming out from it. an overflowing pool mirroring the heichal hatarbut building is one of the most affable modernistic pieces of the city, reflecting its lights just before the concerts.



the old municipality house
photo by or kaplan




‘yaacob garden’ was designed by landscape architect avraham karavan, dani karavan’s father together with yaakov rechter, the architect of ‘atarim square’. it was built during the 60’s, as a two storey structure located next to a small hill surrounded by sycamores. it’s one of the city’s hidden gems – clean architecture woven with wild nature and water pools in different levels contributing the gestalt. sadly, the great privacy that made it so ideal for romance, has also drawn homeless people there and made the citizens bypass it through the boulevards. 



rothschild boulevard
photo by or kaplan




as part of the works in the area two years ago, tema – the office in-charge of the project, did the most obvious thing – creating a direct passage – wide and lit, across the garden, from one boulevard to the other. the surgical procedure succeeded. the homeless and smell of urine were both gone, but so were the winding hills, bridges and wild nature. people returned to walk through the garden again, but the mystery dissipated: common sense defeated emotion. 



rothschild boulevard
photo by or kaplan




tel aviv’s public spaces have improved over the last decade, in spite of public criticism, and the citizens and commuters can once again enjoy the streets and squares. but part of the process is to disappear, simplify and explain great urban complexities that are part of the city’s DNA. is flattening the public space a common architectural act for a coastal city, or rather a conservative ‘osmanic’ act against the unique and the intimate favoring the greater good? time will tell. in this summer’s evenings, when a light breeze manages to make its way through the open boulevards and squares, it is possible that mystery gives way to a new kind of magic.



rothschild boulevard
photo by or kaplan



this article was originally written by keshet rosenblum for haaretz.

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