Step inside!

An event based on the Open House concept offers a chance to view one-of-a-kind homes and architectural gems throughout Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

open house 521 (photo credit: courtesy of Houses from Within)
open house 521
(photo credit: courtesy of Houses from Within)
Walking down the sometimes crowded, always vibrant streets of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, one often wonders what additional mysteries and treasures this diverse city holds. From its ultra-modern skyscrapers to the Mediterranean-style apartment buildings; from the eclectic mix of boutiques and cafés to the trendy and chic nightclubs, this complex city has a life of its own.
Once a year, the city and its residents open their doors to allow a rare glimpse of the design, architecture, life, history, culture, technology and ecology that make Tel Aviv-Jaffa unique.
This special initiative, called Batim Mibifnim, or Houses from Within, is based on the Open House concept in over 50 cities worldwide including London, New York, Paris and Barcelona.
This year’s event in Tel Aviv takes place today and tomorrow, granting tourists, residents and enthusiasts a sneak peek into dozens of one-of-a-kind homes and architectural gems throughout the city.
“This allows people to get to know their city better and to connect to it in a different way, in a better way,” says Aviva Levinson, who together with her husband, architect Alon Bin-Nun, founded and organized the happening.
“Alon went to New York for two weeks, and this project was taking place in the city during the course of a weekend. He became so excited about it and said, ‘We must do this in Tel Aviv!’”
“We went to the Tel Aviv municipality and they were very excited about it as well. They said they would participate and help; so we started to contact people, especially in the architecture community, to see if there was any interest.”
The rest is history. Now in its fifth year, the event has grown to include more than 130 activities throughout Tel Aviv- Jaffa.
Each house or building is chosen based on strict criteria.
“We are always looking for new houses. Sometimes I simply knock on someone’s door and explain that they live in a building considered an architectural icon. I ask if they would be interested in showing their homes,” explains Levinson.
“Most of the time they are interested. Sometimes they are aware of where they live, and other times not, and they have a sort of feeling of obligation to show [the house].
“It doesn’t have to be a beautiful house, it has to be different or have something special about it,” says Levinson. “There are houses that are very technologically interesting and others that are simply breathtaking.”
The home of interior architect Neta Peretz is just one of these unique homes that will be on display this weekend. The old Jaffa apartment was built in 1934 and features five-meter-high ceilings, decorative tile floors and beautiful arched windows.
“I bought this apartment and the authenticity was a great start for me – but I wanted to bring cleanness and something modern to the space – I didn’t want it to be too Mediterranean,” explains Peretz, who attended the prestigious Parsons school for design in New York, where she lived for 15 years before returning to Israel.
“I wanted to find the in-between,” she continues. “It’s almost like caressing the natural elements that this space gave me. I am adding and changing things that would be harmonious with the original.
“Everything that I added was very plain, in the sense that I gave the stage to the authenticity of the house.”
And, indeed, the beautiful outcome speaks for itself, conveying a special sense of softness and tranquility.
Another one-of-a-kind home is Deddy Kedar and Dana Lifshitz’s home.
“We have a very special house in that everything in it, except for a few items, were taken from the street or from people who threw out old stuff, which we then restored,” says Kedar, a multidisciplinary artist.
“We live in south Tel Aviv and a lot of people throw out furniture, things that are hard to get hold of,” he explains.
“We don’t like modern things; we are both very eclectic. We don’t like sets of things – like four chairs, or four identical plates – and we really like old things, that have sentimental value from the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s.
“People have a tendency to throw things out. They see garbage, but we see something else. Sometimes it’s an object that needs a general uplift, sometimes it undergoes a metamorphosis into another use.”
For Kedar and Lifshitz, the event is a chance to show the world that old “junk” can be restored into something beautiful and useful.
“It’s very special, it lets you see how people respond, the ideas they get, and how it affects them – it’s really worth it. Last year, a woman who had lived here in the ’50s showed up to see her childhood home. It was very exciting,” recalls Kedar.
Open houses featuring residential homes are not the only highlight of this year’s event. There are tours of buildings generally not open to the public. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa fire station, which will allow visitors access to its observation tower offering views of the entire city; and the traffic control center, located in a hidden corner on the roof of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality’s Engineering Administration building are just two examples of the hidden gems the city has to offer.
Workshops, discussions with leading architects, bicycle tours and children’s activities on construction and ecology are only a few of the other activities rounding off this year’s event.
To add to the excitement and intrigue, this year’s event will be a truly global affair. The city unit of Tel Aviv-Jaffa will be hosting an International Forum on Houses from Within, bringing together for the first time managers and organizers of Open House events worldwide, together with prominent architecture and design writers.
The guests, comprising world-renowned figures in the fields of architecture and design from New York, London, Barcelona, Chicago, Dublin, Rome, Helsinki and Melbourne, will get a taste of the architectural treasures Tel Aviv-Jaffa has to offer, as well as participating in a professional conference with their peers.
“This is a kind of closure for me,” concludes Levinson, “that five years later this intimate project has become a truly global event garnering so much interest in Tel Aviv, in Israel, and around the world.”
Houses from Within will take place on May 20-21 in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. For more information, visit