White City, Black City: Sharon Rotbard and the politics of architecture in Tel Aviv

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White City, Black City: Sharon Rotbard and the politics of architecture in Tel Aviv
A Bauhaus-inspied building in Tel Aviv. Image: israeltourism via Flickr.

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White City, Black City: Sharon Rotbard and the politics of architecture in Tel Aviv
A Bauhaus-inspied building in Tel Aviv. Image: israeltourism via Flickr.

In 1994, the city of Tel Aviv held a festival dedicated to the Bauhaus architectural style. There was a conference, which attracted academics from all over the world; there were exhibitions and symposiums. There were even special celebratory stamps.

The mood was optimistic: in 1933, the Berlin Bauhaus school had been closed down by the Nazis, but now its architects, and the architecture they produced, had found their new home in Israel. Tel Aviv may have been a young city – it was only founded in 1909 – but it had culture and heritage aplenty.

Sharon Rotbard, a young Israeli architect and writer fresh from his studies at the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris, was asked to write an article on the Bauhaus festival for a local publication. “The piece I wrote was very critical of the campaign”, he says 20 years on, over a patchy Skype connection. “It annoyed many of my friends. I was trouble-fête, spoiling the party. I found a few cracks in their nice story.”….

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