The White City of Tel Aviv
Exhibition at the Museum of Finnish Architecture
12 February – 30 March, 2014.
When one thinks about architectural functionalism in architecture, one visualises the pure, white, austere forms of functionalistic buildings. If critical, one may also frown on the monotonic uniformity of typical Western cityscapes and the ideals of functionalist city planning which in many places have yielded lifeless urbanism and the priority of fluent traffic over lively city life.
The current exhibition at the Museum of Finnish Architecture gives a noteworthy reminder that functionalism has as many facets as there are interpreters. Recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 2003, the White City district of Tel Aviv, Israel, tells us about the emergence of a new town in the new land. It is as if the words of Bruno Taut have come to flesh:
We call upon all those who believe in the future. All strong longing for the future is architecture in the making. One day there will be a world-view, and then there will also be its sign, its crystal – architecture.
— Bruno Taut, New ideas on architecture, exhibition catalogue for Arbeitsrat für Kunst, April 1919.*
True enough, the architects of the new city had their training in Europe and, in that sense, the White City of Tel Aviv displays imported functionalism based on the teachings by the great masters such as Erich Mendelsohn, Le Corbusier and Hannes Meyer. The densely packed, vitally designed exhibition hall exemplifies intriguing interpretations of the Modern Movement adjusted to the local needs and conditions and adapted to the harsh Mediterranean climate.
The exhibition was first shown in Tel Aviv’s Art Museum in 2004. Since 2005, the exhibition has been shown in Montreal, Mendrisio, Lausanne, Rome, Le Havre, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo and most recently at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. After Helsinki, the next stop will be in the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark.
The Museum of Finnish Architecture has organised several parallel events during the exhibition. One of the most notable events will be held on Wednesday 26 March 2014 at 18:30. The Evening with Israeli Architecture offers a lecture entitled From Ideas to Architecture in Israel by professor Baruch Baruch.
More information: Museum of Finnish Architecture website.
*) In Conrads, Ulrich, ed. 1964. Programs and Manifestoes on 20th-Century Architecture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, p. 47.