Tel Aviv as World Heritage

A bit late on this one, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that UNESCO has designated Tel Aviv as a world heritage site–see extended entry for press release from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
If you have yet to walk down the streets of Tel Aviv, do so. It’s amazing–probably one of the most beautiful run-down cities in the world. The buildings just don’t seem to hold up. I grew up in New York in a building over 150 years old, and it still looks almost as good as new. In Tel Aviv, where the oldest buildings are maybe 100, almost everything seems to be in a state of disrepair, and yet the beauty shines through.
The most amazing part of it is the Bauhaus architecture, Tel Aviv being the only place in the world outside of Germany to still feature this minimalist geometric style. I can’t think of many things I would rather do than return to my balcony on Rothschild Blvd, getting drunk after getting home from the army…but I’m just getting sentimental.
Point is, Mazal Tov to Tel Aviv, which certainly deserves this honor.


UNESCO DESIGNATES TEL AVIV AS “WORLD HERITAGE SITE”
UNPRECEDENTED U.N. RECOGNITION FOR CITY’S “WHITE CITY” ARCHITECTURE
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization, has designated the “White City architecture” of Tel Aviv as
one of 24 new World Heritage Sites. UNESCO now recognizes 754 world sites
it describes as being of “outstanding universal value.”
“Tel Aviv is one of the few UNESCO recognitions of a 20th century phenomenon
as a world heritage site”
“What makes the designation of Tel Aviv so unprecedented,” says Minster of
Tourism, Benny Elon, is that almost every other UNESCO World Heritage Site
is either a natural wonder, or hundreds or thousands of years old.
Designating Tel Aviv is one of the few UNESCO recognitions of a twentieth
century phenomenon – and it makes us very proud.”
Tel Aviv, founded as a garden suburb of the ancient Mediterranean port of
Jaffa in 1909, quickly bloomed into the commercial, entertainment and
cultural capital of the Land of Israel. Today, while Jerusalem is Israel’s
capital and has the largest population of any single municipality in Israel,
Tel Aviv remains Israel’s “New York,” heart of Israel’s largest urban
conglomeration that is home to almost 3 million Israelis.
And it is Tel Aviv’s uniqueness as home to more “Bauhaus” or “International
Style” architecture than any city in the world, that has earned it UNESCO’s
seal of approval. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, as German-Jewish architects
at the heart of the “Bauhaus” or “International Style” movement left Germany
for what was then “Palestine,” Tel Aviv – literally overnight – adopted
their style as a route to defining the character of the new “Jewish” city
burgeoning on the Mediterranean. By the mid-1930’s it was the only city on
earth being built entirely in the “International Style” – its simple
concrete curves, boxy shapes, small windows set in large walls, glass-brick
towers and sweeping terraces all washed with white. Viewed from the air, Tel
Aviv appeared as a vision of startling white, hence the appellation, “White
City.”
“The creation of the city of Tel Aviv is one of the greatest symbols and
successes of the Zionist Movement,” Elon observed, “so for UNESCO — a body
affiliated with the organization that once passed an odious resolution
equating Zionism with racisim (the resolution was subsequently
overturned) — to recognize the specialness of Tel Aviv, is particularly
sweet.”
THE “WHITE CITY” TODAY
Almost every “Bauhaus” or “International Style” building in Tel Aviv is an
architectural landmark – a delight for visitors, if sometimes a nightmare
for owners. 60, 70 and 80 years after they were built, many are in
disrepair, but the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality gives generous subsidies to
owners performing restorations. Hundreds of “White City” buildings have
been restored in recent years.and many are apartment buildings, offices,
private houses, restaurants and hotels. One of the loveliest “White City”
restorations is that of the former Esther movie-theater in Dizengoff Circle,
reborn as the “boutique” Cinema Hotel (pictured right), that retains the
sweeping staircases, tall windows and curving balconies of its former
identity, plus dozens of architectural and design details that recall its
heritage.
There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel: the walls of the Old
City of Jerusalem; Masada; the Old City of Akko – and Tel Aviv’s “White
City.”

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