rokach house 248.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Miki is lying on his sofa as we enter his apartment. "Hey man," he says, noticing me. "You want anything to drink?" To which I answer in the affirmative. He gets up, heads to the kitchen, kissing his wife on the way, and pours us a cold beverage. It crosses my mind to tell his wife that whatever's cooking smells good. But I don't know her name.
In fact, I don't really know Miki either. This is our first meeting, I only spoke with him by phone for the first time just earlier that day. Architect Miki Ben-Gan is opening his house, to me and you, as one of the 137 locations participating in the third Houses from Within.
Taking place all around Tel Aviv this weekend, participants are able to entertain their voyeuristic tendencies with access to private apartments, urban villas, synagogues, churches and public structures. All will open their doors - free of charge - to give visitors a glimpse of the first Hebrew city's various designs and architectural history.
I started my day at the Rokach's house in Neve Tzedek, former home of the neighborhood's founder, Dr. Shimon Rokach. During my visit I learned that the neighborhood was founded in 1887, twenty years before Tel Aviv. After falling into a state of disrepair, Shimon's granddaughter Lea Mintz, took responsibility and has since restored the site to its deserving grandeur. Mintz's sculpted works are scattered about the grounds, adding a beautiful touch to this historic building.
Next up was the Cinema Hotel at Dizengoff Square. The first building of the international style to be restored, it was transformed from a now-mythological movie theater into a small boutique hotel. Though, in many ways, the site still conjures up the feeling of walking into a majestic cinema. Having functioned as a movie theater until 1992, the last movie screened was Jean Claude Van Damme's classic Universal Soldier.
Tours are given by Dani Goldsmith, whose grandfather established the hotel in 1943. "I am very proud of the restorations," Goldsmith says of his participation in the weekend. With over 80 guest rooms and a dining room built in, what was the main theater hall, it's a shocking reminder of a time when movie theaters were huge and enchanting. I bet JCVD's awesome kicks looked even more spectacular on that enormous screen.
My final stop is Ben-Gan's place. Now I know how I want my house to look. A garden apartment located in a 1930s apartment building, it's designed as a semi-loft with an interior that plays with the divisions between its public and private spaces. Ben-Gan admits that one of the reasons he participates in Houses From Within is business. "People see the way I designed the house and ask me to design theirs as well. However, I do enjoy the visitors. In my old flat I always had parties for no reason," he asserts.
From the cold beverages we sipped while casually discussing his architectural vision while hanging out in his amazing bathroom to the book he offers his visitors, there is no doubt in regards to his genuine hospitality.
Other geographical highlights include a helicopter landing on the top of the Azrieli Center, Michal Negrin's house, the Turkish train station and much, much more. Just remember to wipe your feet.
Houses From Within is held on May 8 and 9 at myriad locations around Tel Aviv. Some tours require advanced registration. For a complete list of participating locations visit batim-il.org
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