Tel Aviv/ White City in the urbanscape of Tel Aviv
The contemporary planned urbanscape was the utopian ideal to create a green city that took into account of the health and social life of the citizens. As discussed in the previous article, Geddes ideal was indeed actualized by the subsequent German-Jewish architects, as in building architectures that uphold the similar value and urban approach. In fact, the influences and the quality of the actualisation did not end only on the architecture, but demonstrated through the urbanscape at where they exist.
The hierarchy of roads and the home blocks were two of the main focuses of Geddes Plan, aimed at creating social places in a community with minimized automobiles that protect their health. This was evidenced from the layout of the main roads and secondary roads that formed a large rectangular field at their conjunctions, allowing the resultant home block to be built. These home block were the basic growing unit of a social community, with plots as discussed previously for dwelling resided at its periphery and the streets, and that the centre of it was the public green space where social activities took place. The few criss-crossing homeways occurred within was the mean of discouraging automobiles from entering the healthy neighbourhood. The ideological principle of Geddes was once again manifested in the layout, and that the principle was acknowledged by the architects returned from Europe.
The planning introduced by Geddes seem to be accepted by the Europe educated architects, yet, they were not satisfied by the planning of home block put forth by him. The group “Hug” introduced previously, a group focus on the future architectural development of Tel Aviv, consider the move as inappropriate, and not bringing the urban planning principle – the social and health benefits – into full play. The group of architects reviewed the consequences of such home block planning in the effect of citizen’s quality of life and urban space character. Surprisingly, instead of promoting social life and health, it was actually deteriorating. Noise, pollution, street nuisances, undesirable view were all outcomes in such planning. In view of this, the group of architectects urged the Tel Aviv municipality for their involvement in planning, so as to rectify the faults in Geddes Plan.
The deviation between the ideal and the reality, as analyzed by the architects, was due to the lot by lot development system of the home blocks. The root of the incident is that the series of regulations and by-laws were all geared to the stabilization and maintenance of the land value. It was the land value, the revenue the municipal gained by selling of the land that generated the subsequent development in the city, for instance, the infrastructures. The contradiction between Geddes’ ideal and the development pattern was evident that the original dominance of green spaces and the ideal of quality of life were lost under the deliberate protection of the landowner and hence the lost of the architectural and urban quality, in the creation of such “lot-by-lot plan”.
The development pattern had once experienced challenge in the municipal conference as the Hug group begun to engage in the planning committee for their influences in architecture field. In search for a better plan that could truly realize the principle of Geddes Plan, the group initiated a housing development competition in Tel Aviv, collecting innovative yet plausible proposals for the fate of the last open space in the city. Some of the Europe trained architects submitted their work, and that their work had arrived at a commonplace – reorganizing the lot grid and division, either to increase the green spaces area or to increase the sizes of the buildings, under the same goal of alleviating the current filthiness of the city.
Unfortunately, the collected entries of proposals were not realized and approved by the municipal, succumbing to the same financial reason as mentioned before. However, ideas generated and gathered from the competition had settled the basis for future development of White City in the urbanscape of Tel Aviv.
It was in the 1930s, when Geddes Plan had just been implemented for a mere decade, that the European trained architects were able to purchase or be assigned land to actualise their ideal architectures that react to the urbanscape. Ideas such as the connection of two or more plots to form larger building were brought in, giving the opportunity the city to improve its quality of life of the citizens, and also reinforcing the ideals that both Geddes and them agreed. This was the establishment of the primitive White City, the realization of their own utopia.
In full realization of their ideal, integration of green elements was also within their focus. In fact, the green movement in Tel Aviv was intense that this was one of the easiest to preserve ideology posed by Geddes. By adopting that, garden to building area ratio was strictly kept in the building design and construction. In addition to that, plants, fruits, trees were all appeared around the building facade, balconies and roofs, which aimed to increase the exposure of residents to the green, and thus leading to a better health and better quality of life. By looking at the street, the White City was indeed not so white, but the mixture of white and green.
Although the urbanscape of the White City seemed different to the rest of the Tel Aviv city composition, in terms of its building typology, form and urban structure, it was indeed achieving Geddes’ planning concept at its best, forming the unique legacy and heritage of Tel Aviv, distinctive to the other part of the city.
- Metsger-Samoḳ, Nitsah. 2004. Des Maisons Sur Le Sable. Paris: Eclat.
- Rachel Kallus (1997) Patrick Geddes and the evolution of a housing type in Tel-Aviv, Planning Perspectives, 12:3, 281-320, DOI:10.1080/026654397364663
- Azaryahu, Maoz. 2007. Tel Aviv. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.