I have visited Tel Aviv many times but last week was the first time I walked the length of Mazeh Street all the way from Allenby to Menachem Begin to admire what has probably become my favourite modernist building in my favourite city. 56 Mazeh Street was built as a home for the print works of the Ha'aretz newspaper in 1934, according to the designs of father and son architects Joseph and Ze'ev Berlin.
Mazeh Street is mostly residential and would have been completely so at the time the print works were built so it is surprising that permission was granted for an industrial purpose, but happily (for me) it was and although the newspaper left some time ago, the current owners have preserved the original facade. It also looks as if it has recently been re-painted and was glowing white on the day of my stroll. A large and reasonably sympathetic residential development was built to the rear of the former print works at the end of the last century and although it dwarfs my new favourite, it certainly doesn't overpower it, the colour of the new block enhancing the Berlins' white building.
The facade has very strong features with gratuitous use of steel framed glass, rounded balconies and balustrades and a cantilevered roof. However, the highlight for me is the corner stairwell window that gives views in to the zig zag staircase and adds drama to the design. This squared and straight corner contrasts nicely with the already mentioned curved balconies and balustrades. Some writers compare the building to the early works of Walter Gropius and Erich Mendelsohn. Whilst seeing their point I feel that this building is all "Berlin" with Joseph developing his approach to architecture after being responsible for some wonderful eclectic style Tel Aviv buildings in the 1920's before moving on to take account of the modernism of the 1930's.
Tel Aviv in June is very hot, very hot. And humid too. But it was certainly worth the long slow walk to 56 Mazeh to admire this lovely building.