The International Style

The International Style (aka Bauhaus Style) in architecture flourished in Israel in the 1930s and 1940s following the immigration of German Jewish architects who fled the Nazis to the British Mandate of Palestine. By far its best manifestation is Tel Aviv's White City – a collection of over 4,000 International Style buildings built in Tel Aviv. The International Style became emblematic of the city and its historic heritage, symbolizing its cosmopolitan, modern, sophisticated and energetic nature.

In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Tel Aviv's White City a World Cultural Heritage site, as "an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century." The citation recognized the unique adaptation of modern international architectural trends to the cultural, climatic, and local traditions of the city.

The name International Style was given to modern architecture in Europe of the 20's and 30's. The style found its expression in the work of some famous architects, including Le Corbusier, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Mendelsohn. The style is characterized by simple cube-like shapes, horizontal and vertical, flat roofs, smooth facades, rows of windows, concrete beams, various combinations of reinforced concrete, steel and glass, and a functional approach to architecture. Bauhaus architects rejected "bourgeois" details such as cornices, eaves and decorative details. Jewish architects, mainly from Central Europe, who immigrated to The Land of Israel in the 30's brought with them these concepts of modern architecture which they put into practice primarily in Tel Aviv. The city is referred to as the "White City" because of the white color used in Tel Aviv by its Bauhaus architects.

It was not simply a question of copying stylistic elements but of adapting them to local climatic conditions and to the requirements of the new country, so for instance, the big glass windows common in Europe with sparse sunshine were exchanged for deep balconies which created shade for inner rooms; the size of windows was reduced and the houses were erected on concrete pillars providing ventilation and cool shade, as well as greater garden space.

Tel Aviv is the only city in the world in which an entire district built along the principles of the International Style has been preserved. An outstanding example is Dizengoff Circle, planned in 1934 by architect Jenia Averbouch. Its picture, from the late 1950's, appears on the stamp. The stamp also shows, in a circle, the front of an International Style building near Dizengoff Circle, and the city map of the Circle's area.

The stamp was issued in 2007; designer: R. Goldberg.

The following is taken from UNESCO's website, with reference to the White City of Tel-Aviv:

The city of Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 to the immediate north of the walled port city of Jaffa, on the hills along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. During the era of British rule in Palestine (1917-1948) it developed into a thriving urban centre, becoming Israel's foremost economic and metropolitan nucleus.

The serial property consists of three separate zones, the central White City, Lev Hair and Rothschild Avenue, and the Bialik Area, surrounded by a common buffer zone.

The White City of Tel Aviv can be seen as an outstanding example in a large scale of the innovative town-planning ideas of the first part of the 20th century. The architecture is a synthetic representation of some of the most significant trends of Modern Movement in architecture, as it developed in Europe. The White City is also an outstanding example of the implementation of these trends taking into account local cultural traditions and climatic conditions.

Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 and developed rapidly under the British Mandate in Palestine. The area of the White City forms its central part, and is based on the urban master plan by Sir Patrick Geddes (1925-27), one of the foremost theorists in the early modern period. Tel Aviv is his only large-scale urban realization, not a 'garden city', but an urban entity of physical, economic, social and human needs based on an environmental approach. He developed such innovative notions as 'conurbation' and 'environment', and was pioneer in his insight into the nature of city as an organism constantly changing in time and space, as a homogeneous urban and rural evolving landscape. His scientific principles in town planning, based on a new vision of a 'site' and 'region', influenced urban planning in the 20th century internationally. These are issues that are reflected in his master plan of Tel Aviv.

The buildings were designed by a large number of architects, who had been trained and had practised in various European countries. In their work in Tel Aviv, they represented the plurality of the creative trends of modernism, but they also took into account the local, cultural quality of the site. None of the European or North-Africa realizations exhibit such a synthesis of the modernistic picture nor are they at the same scale. The buildings of Tel Aviv are further enriched by local traditions; the design was adapted to the specific climatic conditions of the site, giving a particular character to the buildings and to the ensemble as a whole.

Criterion (ii): The White City of Tel Aviv is a synthesis of outstanding significance of the various trends of the Modern Movement in architecture and town planning in the early part of the 20th century. Such influences were adapted to the cultural and climatic conditions of the place, as well as being integrated with local traditions.

Criterion (iv): The White City of Tel Aviv is an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century, adapted to the requirements of a particular cultural and geographic context.

Integrity: The spirit of the Geddes plan has been well preserved in the various aspects of urban design (morphology, parcelling, hierarchy and profiles of streets, proportions of open and closed spaces, green areas). The urban infrastructure is intact, with the exception of Dizengoff Circle, where traffic and pedestrian schemes have been changed, although efforts are being made to reinstate the original plan Incremental changes could affect the integrity of the urban ensemble in the future. There are some visible changes in the buffer zone due to new construction and commercial development in the 1960s-1990s including some office and residential structures that are out of scale. The White City is encapsulated inside a ring of high-rise structures, which has obviously altered the initial relationship with its context. Any further development could impact on its visual integrity.

Authenticity: The authenticity of architectural design has been fairly well preserved, proven by homogeneous visual perception of urban fabric, the integrity of style, typology, character of streets, relationship of green areas and urban elements, including, fountains, pergolas and gardens. The details of entrance lobbies, staircases, railings, wooden mailboxes, front and apartment doors, window frames have generally not been changed, though there are some losses - as in most historic towns.