Housing Typology

Under Geddes’ masterplan, not only the city of Tel Aviv is under his imagination and layout set by his vision, but also microscopically that of typical housing.


Before everything about Tel Aviv was set up, the typical Jewish residence inside the town walls of Jaffa was packed. This is due to the fact that Jaffa was bound by the defensive wall system and it was a hectic town with many people living there. When communities started developing outside the walls, such as Neve Tzedek (1986), Neve Shalom (1890) and Mahane Yehuda (1896), the traditional low rise urban form was maintained, yet more spaces allowed the addition of small, green public spaces, wider streets and most importantly, houses with better ventilation, light penetration and sanitary systems.


Traditionally, Jewish residence shields themselves against the searing sun with thick mud walls and small or even no windows. The housing typology could be categorized as being more internal, with sub-division within a regular box of space. The main social space is near the center of the house and is the biggest in proportion.


With Geddes’ setback guideline and later Arieh Sharon’s residential cooperative housing estates, the typical residence in Tel Aviv has changed completely. The focus of the typology has shifted from the internal to the external. Sub-division happens more nearer to the outside. Envelop no longer is a perfect box. Most importantly, social functions take place outside the house, at the open spaces around the building. Children play under the building, running around the pilotis, instead of behind the thick mud walls of the living room.


The primary emphasis of the design of housing in Tel Aviv has changed dramatically and hence altered people’s living very much. Although in later stages, Tel Aviv housing projects leans towards a mild version of social, communal housing instead of the individual settlement found outside Jaffa, the ideological change of the design of the living conditions of the residents is still very profound and vital to the identity of Tel Aviv.


Typical plan of Jewish residence outside the old city of Jaffa. Betser, 1984.
Typical plan of 4 apartment building in Tel Aviv. Kallus, 1982.



Betser. Apartment Houses in Tel Aviv in the Thirties – Their Development, Concept and Design. Technion, 1984.

Kallus. BETWEEN house AND city. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982.

Researchgate. “Patrick Geddes and the evolution of a housing type in Tel-Aviv”. Accessed 10 November, 2018. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233046801_Patrick_Geddes_and_the_evolution_of_a_housing_type_in_Tel-Aviv.

1 Comment on “Housing Typology

  1. It is interesting to know the identity establishment process of Jewish people through the guideline of urban lots setting, form of civic building and changes of private housing typology which brought by European-educated Jewish architects. It will be better if some practical examples of private sectors and urban form formulation to support the analysis.

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