As the first modern Hebrew city, Tel Aviv is known as the cultural hub of
Israel, and the Tel Aviv Municipality is always keen to show that the city that
never sleeps is a modern urban center with cutting-edge facilities. However,
until this past year, Tel Aviv had a national theater that did not meet
international standards, as well as a cinematheque and art museum that had not
been updated for decades. All that changed in the year 5772.
As part of
the municipality’s policy in recent years of renewing the city’s historical
assets, many of the cultural institutions in the city have undergone major
renovations to bring them up to 21st-century standards.
makeovers were unveiled of three of the city’s most important and influential
After years of planning and investment, the Habimah
Theater, Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Tel Aviv Cinematheque have all been
transformed with various building extensions and modern face-lifts.
celebrate the revival of these cultural powerhouses the municipality declared
2012 “Art Year” in a bid to showcase the improvements and let the world see the
modern facilities Tel Aviv has to offer.
A look back at these projects,
completed in the past 12 months, highlights that the White City does indeed have
world-class cultural institutions.
THE STAGE IS RESET
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Habimah, the home
of Israel’s national theater, received a much needed face-lift and was
officially reopened in November 2011 after being closed for renovations for
almost five years.
The ambitious renovation project cost a total of NIS
105 million, with the municipality contributing just over NIS 57m. and the
government funding the rest.
For many actors and theatergoers, the
renovations came none too soon.
With the cornerstone of the original
building having been laid in 1935, and the theater officially opening in 1946,
by the turn of the 21st century Tel Aviv’s first major modern theater was behind
the times. The crowded halls and the outdated workshops and rehearsal halls did
not meet international standards.
The new building was designed by Israel
Prize laureate Ram Karmi. In an effort to maintain many of the characteristics
of the original building, Karmi made a point of re-exposing the original six
hallmark columns, according to the municipality. The modern design by the
veteran architect includes new rehearsal rooms and four modern performance halls that provide increased legroom.
While the main structure of the theater
is very impressive, the redesign also includes improved electrical, sewerage and
water systems, cutting-edge lighting and sound equipment, a modern cafeteria, a
five-level underground parking lot and a number of escalators and
The theater’s four halls each have their own distinct
character. The Rovina Hall, which has 920 seats, is the main hall where major
performances are staged. Next in size is the Meskin Hall with 301 seats. With
influences from the Greek arena, the Bartonov Hall was designed complete with
concrete tribunes and has 196 seats. Finally, the smallest and most intimate
hall, the Experimental Theater, is designed like a bar and can seat
Hanoch Levin’s Morris Schimmel
was the first play performed at the
new theater in November, and an official gala opening took place in
The renovated theater building is part of a larger project at
Hatarbut Square that was unveiled last year after a multimillion-shekel
The impressive square includes a large sculpture consisting of
three connected circles, a large rectangular seating area made up of wooden
steps surrounding a patchwork of flowers and plants of various shapes, sizes and
colors and a sleek, modern infinity pool.
EVERY NIGHT IS MOVIE NIGHT
Since it first opened in 1973, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque sought to be a pioneer
of both mainstream and alternative cinema. From the outset, it intended to
heighten public awareness of the art of filmmaking and stress the importance of
While the films being shown may have been original and
cutting edge, by the start of this century the building was starting to show its
age and the municipality decided to help with renovations in the form of a new
The new wing was designed by architect Salo Hershman and includes
three spacious new theaters, all fitted with some of the latest projection and
sound equipment. The “futuristic” building also includes office space, a
comprehensive film library, a coffee shop and a restaurant.
design of the new wing has once again put the Cinematheque on the map of Tel
Aviv’s cultural hot spots. Featuring huge red metal pipes as well as enormous
mirrors and fragmented geometric shapes, the iconic building stands out in its
location in the heart of the city.
The dedication ceremony for the new
wing, known as the Marc Rich Israel Cinema Center, took place in January. Over
600 guests attended the event, including President Shimon Peres, Culture and
Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.
The new wing,
which cost about NIS 50m., has taken over from the original Cinematheque
building which is currently closed for renovations.
About half the
funding came from the Marc Rich Foundation, with the other half provided by the
Tel Aviv Municipality.
The new center hopes to make film, cinematic art
and culture accessible to Israeli audiences of all ages, according to the Tel
Aviv-Jaffa Foundation, the organization that spearheaded the project. “Residents
and visitors will be able to enjoy annual film festivals, cinematic
competitions, independent productions, and global feature films screened for the
public,” a statement by the foundation said.
MODERN BUILDING, CLASSIC ART
Almost 10 years in the planning, the new
state-of-the-art wing at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art has been internationally
recognized as a success.
In 2002 the museum set out to find an architect
to help construct a building that would house new as well as existing
collections. Prof. Preston Scott Cohen, who heads the Harvard University
Graduate School of Architecture, was chosen to take on the challenge of bringing
the acclaimed museum into the 21st century.
Cohen’s horizontal “radiator”
model has come a long way since its first presentation to the judges of the
competition, according to the museum.
The construction was made possible
due to a generous donation from Herta and Paul Amir of Los Angeles, and thus the
building is named after them. The total cost of the building was
The unique space is simultaneously linear and multi-layered, with a
vertical “light fall” that drains the building’s vertical dimension. This light
orientates the visitor and brings together all the empty spaces around
So impressive is the design of the building that it was awarded the
Best Museum Award in the prestigious Travel and Leisure magazine in
The influential magazine commented that: “In contrast to many
dramatically shaped new art museums, it succeeds in being at once breathtaking
and deferential to the art on display.”
Architect and Travel and Leisure
judge Billie Tsien said: “The Tel Aviv museum is quite a piece of sculpture, but
it is a sculpture that accepts art.”
Twisting from floor to floor, the
five levels of the futuristic building accommodate large, rectangular
The clever design allows natural light to refract into the
deepest recesses of the half-buried building.
With over 1,720 square
meters of gallery space the new wing houses a number of different exhibitions at
any one time. The inaugural installation included some 250 works dating from
1906 to the present.
The new wing is an addition to the original building
that was opened in 1971 located in the heart of Tel Aviv adjacent to the Golda
Meir Cultural and Art Center and the Beit Ariela Municipal Library. That
original building was expanded in 1996 with an expansive Sculpture Garden and
then again in 1999 with the Gabrielle Rich Wing.
PLENTY MORE TO LOOK
Tel Aviv’s Art Year has already seen a number of successful events
including a celebratory opening event in March featuring a multidisciplinary,
one-of-a-kind encounter between musical performances, digital art, screenings of
video art and animation, displays and interactive installations, showcased at 15
hubs of activity at the city’s art complex.
At the beginning of this
month the annual Loving Art Making Art saw 60 galleries, museums and exhibition
spaces open their doors to the public free of charge.
In the New Year,
the “Boidem” (Attic) Festival will be a platform for artists to reveal their
earliest works in filmmaking, photography, playwriting, plastic arts, video art
That will be followed by the Bat Yam Biennale of Landscape
Urbanism, which is an international biannual event, dealing with planning and
design of urban life culture.
In terms of cultural construction, next
year residents of Tel Aviv can look forward the unveiling of the first stage of
the Ganei Sarona commercial and residential complex. The multi-purpose site will
include 33 original houses from the former Templer colony, a 4.5-hectare park, a
convention center and 10 skyscrapers facing Kaplan Street and the Kirya military
headquarters. The entire project, with its adjoining planned light rapid transit
station, is set to be fully completed within the next decade.
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