Tel Aviv/ Social reasons for the rise of Bauhaus architecture

In 1933, the Bauhaus school was closed down by the Nazis in Berlin and triggered the influx of architects and the international-style architectures in Tel Aviv.

According to the UNESCO, the area of the White City forms its central part and is based on the urban master plan by Patrick Geddes. The German Jewish architects represented the trends of modernism but also considered the local quality of the site.

So why the city needed these international style houses other than vernacular architectures is a question about cultural, geographical, political and social consideration.

In the 1930s, housing was in demand. Functional, economical, quick housing solution was necessary. This social background set the perfect backdrop for the rise of Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv. International style buildings made use of mass production technology and invented the use of cheap building materials. It was a creation of a new form of collective social housing for the working class who were basically the first group of immigrants.

Distribution of Bauhaus architecture
Distribution of Bauhaus architecture ©Nitsah, 2004

A lack of an acceptably non-Arab architectural vernacular in Tel Aviv provided the necessary space for the full realisation of the Modernism. Between 1931 and 1936, Tel Aviv grew from 46,000 to 140,000 residents in which tens of thousands of middle class, socialist Jewish immigrants looked for new architectural style that could represent their Jewish identities. In addition, the International Style was an ideal style for immigrants from Europe as the familiar Modernism was a comfortable home. Most Bauhaus style architectures in Tel Aviv were private dwellings while there were only 20 social cooperative housing.

The classic Buahaus architecture did not just come in forcefully but were integrated well with local geographical conditions. Since Tel Aviv is a tropical city, the architects realized adaption had to be made to the Middle Eastern climate:
– White and light-color facade to reflect heat
– Small recessed windows replacing large glass
– Protruding slabs and balconies to provide shade for windows
– Flat roofs replacing slanted ones
– Houses raised on piloties to allow sea breeze to flow and cool them

The small openings
The small openings ©Wasmuth, 1994
Balcony to provide shading
Balcony to provide shading ©Wasmuth, 1994

With the smart adaption made to suit the local needs, Bauhaus architecture was well received by the people.


  1. Des Maisons Sur Le Sable: Tel-Aviv, Mouvement Moderne Et Esprit Bauhaus = Dwelling on the Dunes : Tel Aviv, Modern Movement and Bauhaus Ideals. Paris: Eclat, 2004.
  2. Bandau, Irmel, and Winfried Nerdinger. Tel Aviv Modern Architecture, 1930-1939. Tübingen: Wasmuth, 1994.
  3. “White City of Tel-Aviv — the Modern Movement.” – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Accessed December 20, 2015.

5 Comments on “Tel Aviv/ Social reasons for the rise of Bauhaus architecture

  1. It actually sounds quite contradicting to me that the international style housing provides a fast solution for housing by mass production and cheaper materials that seem to be a solution for public housing for lower class, but at the same time suits the living habits of middle class Jewish immigrants who ask for better housing. In what ways the design of these Bauhaus buildings matches the living style of the middle class? It will be quite interesting to look into details of design of these houses and relate them to the daily life of people.

    • I assume there can be variations in the housing typology in order to fit different groups of people, so it would not be contradicting that international housing style are both suitable to lower class and middle class Jewish immigrants. I agree with you that details of design and their relationship with the people’s life would be interesting to look at. On the other hand, it would also be nice if the influence brought by the white houses to the overall urban planning is studied. What difference does the white houses brought to Tel Aviv compared to the vernacular housings? What is the broader imapact?

      • This post was more on explaining the background for the rise of Bauhaus Style in Tel Aviv in 1930s; and the relationship between the architectural style and people’s social life is illustrated in our other posts. Bauhaus architecture allowed realisation of the Geddes’ plan, in which he stressed on community and greenery. For instance, the Bauhaus private housing usually provided flat roof and balcony for social gathering and gardening, unlike the Eclectic Style housing. Those Bauhaus architects also introduced cooperative social housing in which neighbourhood identity and equality in living qualities were ensured for the workers in Tel Aviv. Bauhaus buildings also showed a better adaptability to the tropical climate than the vernacular buildings. The Eclectic style buildings were critized by Geddes for being exposed to high temperatures and strong light under the extreme climate. In a broader sense- or concerning ethnic identity issue, Bauhaus Style was treated by Jewish as a political tool to wipe off the early styles including Eclectic and Oriental styles which were Middle Eastern, in favour of a purely Ashkenazi identity in 1930s during which Zionism was gaining tremendous support.

  2. I think this post includes a lot of information that needs further explanation. It would be clearer if this post is broken down to several posts and provide more specific supporting evidence to the arguments. Apart from the above-mentioned points, I would like to know the historical picture of Tel Aviv before the international style came about. What is on that land before these social housing were built? Is it residential, farm, or just barren flat land? What is the population of the city? What is their living condition like? Even is there’s no certain style of the vernacular architecture, why did the locals accept the international style without dispute?

    • We have other posts talking about the background of the rise of Bauhaus architectures, such as the Eclectic Style and its disadvantages over Bauhaus Style, influx of Jewish immigrants, population growth, poor living condition in both Jaffa and Tel Aviv and so on. Before 1930s, Eclecticism was the major style of architecture in Tel Aviv. Yet it offered too much creative freedom without any guiding rules for architects during the design process. Functionality and economic architectures were what Tel Avivans looked for in the 1930s due to population growth. Apart from social consideration, Zionist politicians and Jewish architects rejected the Eclectic Style and Orientalist Style which were favoured by early immigrants as “a combination of Baghdad and Berdichev”. A whitewashed modernism which could solidify the Ashkenazi identity was persuaded instead.

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