Friday, 17 January 2014

Picture Post 22 - 5 Frug Street, Tel Aviv

Beit Shami, 5 Frug Street, Tel Aviv
Earlier this week I booked my annual Israel visit. As usual, I will spend most of my time in Tel Aviv, my favourite city in the world, and the site of the world's largest collection of Bauhaus buildings. To keep me going until then, and to get through the cold London winter, here is a little reminder of Tel Aviv's architectural heritage.

Tel Aviv has a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for its Bauhaus buildings Frug Street has a number of interesting buildings, but Beit Shami, an apartment block at number 5 is outstanding and forms part of the UNESCO listing. It has a stairwell that stops passers-by in their tracks with its extraordinary external concrete fins that cover the steel framed window behind. The fins are cut diagonally away from the main structure, ensuring that number 5 draws the attention of all visitors to the street, as well as protecting the interior from the strong middle eastern sunlight. I am told that at certain times of day this produces interesting shadows inside the building, thus being both a decorative and functional design element. They also give the building its nickname, the thermometer. I have never yet been able to see inside…maybe next time I am there?

Built in 1936 and designed by architect Yehuda Liolka, the house has stood up well to the extreme humidity, strong sunshine and salt-laden atmosphere of Tel Aviv and has clearly been well maintained - much more so than several of the other Bauhaus buildings in the city.

In addition to the fins (or thermometer depending on your preference!), Beit Shami also has those wonderful Bauhaus balconies designed to give residents some outdoor space and the communal roof area. When these apartment blocks were being built in the 1930's, shared space was provided in order to encourage some degree of communal living, not unlike that practised in the Soviet Union. House committees were set up to make decisions about maintenance and care of the building and to deal with disputes between residents. Today some of these spaces are disappearing, being sold off to allow an additional floor to be built in order to fund much needed renovation and repair to the original buildings. There are strict regulations relating to this, with new build being recessed from the facade of apartment blocks in order to maintain the original streetscape.

The Bauhaus Center at 99 Dizengoff organises weekly guided Bauhaus tours on Friday mornings, several of which include the exterior of 5 Frug Street. For the more independent traveller, or for those who can't make a Friday, you can hire a headset from the Center and take a self-guided tour. So, ticket booked…I just have to wait until June now! 

The thermometer!
You might also like Back to Tel Aviv - Bauhaus, Bialik and Blumenthal and Tel-Aviv top ten 

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