Takeaway

Tel Aviv: Between the beach and Bauhaus

Ashwin Rajagopalan | Updated on May 10, 2019

Rock the night: Kuli Alma, which means the ‘whole world’ in the ancient Aramaic language, is one of the hottest clubs in the region

The Israeli city makes a generous offering of natural and man-made wonders

It was 7 pm and I was on the sunset deck at the Carlton Hotel, which overlooks Gordon Beach, one of the most popular spots on the Tel Aviv promenade. Sunsets in Israel’s commercial hub seldom disappoint --- the Mediterranean Sea is a great support cast in this. Gordon Beach is a microcosm of Tel Aviv, where there’s room for everyone from fitness freaks to slothful sunbathers. It’s said that seashells from Tel Aviv’s coastline were first used in a lottery in 1909 to parcel out land among 66 Jewish families, who formed the Ahuzat Bayit (‘homestead’ in Hebrew). It was this society that laid the foundation for Tel Aviv, a settlement that sprung up south of Jaffa, a historic port.

Later that evening, I walked through Rothschild Boulevard, the site where this lottery took place. It’s a completely different space in 2019 — a swish neighbourhood with fine-dining restaurants, expensive homes and throbbing nightspots.

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I pick Friday night (Friday and Saturday make up the Israeli weekend, adhering to the Shabbat) to check out Kuli Alma, one of the hottest clubs in the region. True to its name (Kuli Alma means the ‘whole world’ in the ancient Aramaic language), this trendy nightspot features diverse art forms under one roof — urban street art, video art projections, exhibitions by local artists, hip-hop music and experimental live acts. If you’ve heard wild tales about Tel Aviv’s nightlife, believe them. This nightclub started to come alive around 2 am.

The tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard was a complete contrast on Saturday afternoon, when families unwind in a public park that runs through the boulevard. I was tempted to kick off my trainers and stretch out on the grass — except I was on a mission: A Bauhaus tour.

Design philosophy: The Bauhaus buildings give Tel Aviv the status of the ‘White City’

 

This story goes back to the 1930s, a time when Hitler’s National Socialist party was effecting wholesale cultural changes in Germany. One of their targets was the Bauhaus design school, which functioned from 1919 to 1933, first in Weimar and then Dessau. Suspecting it to be a hub of communist intellectualism, the Nazis forced the school to shut down, but not before the Bauhaus teachers had managed to train 700 students, including six Jewish architects.

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It wasn’t just these six architects who contributed to Tel Aviv’s status as the ‘White City’. Many other Jewish architects who moved here from across Europe in the 1930s also absorbed the Bauhaus style. The method laid emphasis on a community of artists working together, in place of the traditional pupil-teacher relationship. Bauhaus blends the German words for building (bau) and house (haus) to denote a collective guild working to build a new society. In no time, over 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings sprang up in Tel Aviv alone.

These buildings won Tel Aviv’s White City the Unesco World Heritage status in the 2000s. Walking tours of the area, conducted by the Bauhaus Center, are a big draw. You’re likely to become an expert in spotting Bauhaus buildings after this two-hour tour. You will start noticing the balanced forms, abstract shapes and lack of ornamentation in some of the city’s landmark residential buildings such as Engel House and Kiriyaty House. Bauhaus was probably the spark of the minimalist architecture that inspired the design language of brands such as IKEA and Apple.

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My favourite stop was the Cinema Hotel, among Tel Aviv’s first movie theatres, which has been repurposed as a hotel. At the time of its launch in 1930, this was one of the city’s showpiece Bauhaus buildings, with a dramatic staircase and chandeliers. Some of these elements — the staircase, for example — have been preserved along with lithograph posters and projectors.

Bauhaus architecture celebrates hundred years of its existence this year. At a time when right-wing ideologies seem to be gaining the upper hand in Europe and beyond, the Bauhaus success story proves that you can’t extinguish ideas or free thought.

Ashwin Rajagopalan is a Chennai-based lifestyle writer

Travel log
  • Getting there and around
  • There are direct flights on El Al and Air India from Mumbai and Delhi respectively. Cabs are expensive in Tel Aviv and an efficient bus system is the only public transportation.
  • Stay
  • Carlton Hotel (carlton.co.il) has easy access to the Gordon Beach and promenade;, or the Cinema Hotel (atlas.co.il)that is housed in a Bauhaus building.
  • Explore
  • Tel Aviv is one of the safest cities in the world and has a great nightlife. You can walk along the beach promenade or busy districts like Rothschild Boulevard round the clock.
  • BLink Tip
  • The two-hour Bauhaus district guided tours are conducted only once a week (Fridays, 10 am) and cost 80 shekels (about ₹1,600). You could also explore the district on your own, but it’s a good idea todo make a pit-stop at the Bauhaus Center (www.bauhaus-center.com)

Published on May 10, 2019

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