Tel Aviv loves being designated as the White City for its more than 4,000 white Bauhaus buildings, designed by German-trained architects who migrated to here pre-statehood.
But there’s also the city’s collection of eclectic structures, buildings designed in the 1920s and 1930s, and decorated with arched windows, pilasters and tiled ceilings, harkening back to Tel Aviv’s initial ties to both the East and West.
One of the most famous jewels of this smaller, but still significant collection is Beit Awad, a home designed in 1926 by Russian architect Joseph Berlin for the Awad family, who immigrated to pre-state Palestine from Aden in Yemen. They wanted a decorative, standout home that would formally recognize their social and financial standing.
For Berlin, it was one of 80 homes and projects that he designed in Tel Aviv, and one of several that he created on Rothschild Boulevard in the city center, including his own home on the same street (82 Rothschild, designed with his architect son, Zeev Berlin).
Berlin’s later projects displayed more Bauhaus elements as he adapted to his new surroundings, with undecorated surfaces, flat roofs and ribbon windows, explains Baruch Ravid in his book about Berlin.
The Awad House, agree architects, is one of his early jewels.
For the Awads, Berlin designed a symmetrical house with elements of a classic Greek temple, complete with central pilasters, Cubist details, geometric lines and Hellenic elements.
It eventually fell into disrepair, and the house housed a series of businesses, including Ying Yang, chef Yisrael Aharoni’s famed Chinese restaurant at 64 Rothschild. The two other buildings were used for offices.
Ninety-two years later, Awad House is undergoing a complete restoration as part of a luxury residential project. Now called Villa Rothschild, the jewel of a structure will be flanked by two, seven-story Bauhaus-style luxury buildings extending from 62 Rothschild to 64 and 66 Rothschild.
Space is at a premium here, but some of the buyers, who include two major Israeli industrialists and at least one foreign buyer, will have their own private pools, spacious decks overlooking the city and the sea beyond, and underground parking, never something to take for granted in the crowded city of Tel Aviv.
Prices are steep, ranging from NIS 19,680,000 ($5,622,857) for the garden villa and NIS 24,730,000 ($7,065,714) for the fifth floor penthouse to NIS 29,850,000 ($8,528,571) for the top-floor penthouse.
“It will become their main residence,” said Amit Banayan, the project director from Boulevard-Terra, the real estate developers handling project. “What else do you need if you’re living on Rothschild?”
Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv’s first major arteries, is known for its central path down the middle of the street that is lined with purple flowering jacaranda trees, benches, kiosks and playgrounds, as well as a collection of high-end restaurants and cafes, and the nearby Rothschild/Allenby market, a smart imitation of New York’s Chelsea Market with market stands and stalls.
It’s a neighborhood that is home to office towers built in the 1980s and 1990s along with residents from its extensive selection of Bauhaus buildings, along with a smattering of nearby eclectic-style structures.
“The eclectic buildings don’t have a big cultural value,” said Gidi Bar Orian, the architect whose firm designed Villa Rothschild and is known for his work restoring Tel Aviv’s landmarked buildings that are then adjoined with new structures. “They have a lot of them in Europe but when they sit on a street with other buildings and remain low, they seem like a small diamond in a series of current buildings.”
It was the later architectural styles of Bauhaus and Brutalism that eventually took hold in Tel Aviv, but the city eventually learned that its architectural evolution of eclectic and other styles also has value, said Bar Orian.
“You can’t just destroy the old and build new,” he said. “There’s value to these buildings and they sit and look at these eclectic buildings, that are very detailed, and the Bauhaus with their clean lines and even the new buildings built on the basis of Bauhaus.”
That’s what Bar Orian has done at this latest project, which places Awad House with its eclectic style in the middle, and the two, new luxury buildings designed with straight, clean lines, on either side.
“There’s something nice in that collaboration, in that possibility of one next to the other, that identifies the period that they were built in,” he said.
At Rothschild 62, the restored Awad House will be home to one family, while the other two buildings will house several units, depending on whether buyers choose to join two apartments.
It’s a project that has drawn some criticism, as the three addresses are now being combined into one plot, with the three-floor underground parking lot dug 13 meters underground.
Tel Aviv historian Shula Vidrich called Rothschild Boulevard a museum without walls for all the building styles, and commented that the combination at Villa Rothschild damages the “existing fabric of architectural styles.”
The municipality’s preservation department said the current project retains the use of the plot as a residential building, which fits into the city’s preservation plans.
Bar Orian, who established his firm with his wife, Tal Bar Orian, has handled the renovation of dozens of Tel Aviv landmarked buildings.
The city’s system for protecting landmarked structures allows the construction of new, luxury buildings that offer the financing for properly restoring the original structure that is part of the project. Certain projects allow for the addition of new floors and apartments on the roof of the original, landmarked building, while others, like Villa Rothschild, create new building nestling the original structure.
“I’m less interested in the restoration of a stand-alone building and protecting it as it once was,” said Bar Orian. “What really interests is the connection of the old and new, not just the old.”