The buildings bound for conservation at 18-20 Rothschild Blvd. truly represent the values of the International Movement in architecture in Tel Aviv and are a telling evidence of the activity of the architect Pinhas (Philip) Huett, one of the most important architects of the period who worked in the city. This was a period of rapid development and growth of the historic city center – from residential quarter into a main business center/metropolis. In the building standing at 18 Rothschild Blvd. these values are expressed in the main façade and the lateral façades near the boulevard, which managed to survive into our days with most of their original openings. The main stairway, with its thermometer window, so characteristic in Huett’s work, is one architectural detail deserving meticulous conservation being a genuine example of the architectural culture of the 1930’s, as well as the balconies in this façade. During the years the building served as condominium, a partial fence separating it from the boulevard was built. This fence was removed with the conversion of the building into an office building.
The lot at 18 Rothschild Boulevard was purchased by Avraham Yosef Minzer in 1925. Prior to that, as testified by the municipal documents and Druyanov’s Map from1924, showing the expansion of construction in Tel Aviv in that year, the lot stood empty. The land belonged to Mr. Yacobus Cohen (Kahn), a Jewish Dutch consul in Palestine, who was very close to the Zionist Movement. In fact, his name was used to buy lands due to the restrictions imposed by the Ottoman Government on selling land to Jews. The actual transaction was conducted by Meir Dizengoff, who signed the paper as Jacobus Kahn’s proxy. The construction itself began only after seven years. In 1934 Minzer and his family arrived in Israel and while the construction was in progress had lived at Lilienblum 32 and in a hotel at Allenby 19. Once the construction was completed, the family moved into a frontal apartment at the second floor of the building.
In 1935 Minzer purchased the adjacent lot on 20 Rothschild Blvd. and in 1936 erected there another building, planned by the same architect in the popular International Style. In this building, the typical features of that style supplemented its original designation as an office building to create a structure with very simple lines, when most of the elements creating its appearance are directed toward functionality and formality. The building’s mass follows the contours of the lot (through preservation of the building’s lines) when in general all the floors are overlapping in a way leaving the mass as one whole, without playing with the building’s volume. The main element giving the building its character are the windows with horizontal proportions, which replicate themselves and comprise most of the façades area. Repetitive use of these windows along the building’s perimeter reflects the anonymity of its users, because the building was designated from the very beginning to serve for rented offices. The emphasis on horizontal lines: all the horizontal windows and their serial arrangement create horizontal lines that surround the whole building. These horizontal lines, created by the arrangement of the windows are integrated with the horizontal lines created by the balconies of the southern façade. The concrete awning around the building along its front strengthens this emphasis further and separates the ground floor from those of the offices above it. Since the building was designated for offices from the start, and functionality being a fundamental principle in modern buildings, there is no actual need for balconies in an office building. The architect, nevertheless, added roofed balconies in both south-facing façades. Their shape (being quite narrow and closed) indicates that their purpose was to create shading for the southern façade rather than to make them useful for the office workers. The building’s simplicity, stemming from the principles and designation of the International Style, made it a building with limited number of architectural details and using simple details intended to serve practical needs, without excessive decoration. As most of the future renters were unknown, the planning was not adjusted to meet specific needs. However, the main renter, “Immigrants Bank Palestine-Poland Limited”, signed a long term renting contract prior to the completion of the construction and therefore the interior planning at the ground floor and the open gallery leading to it were shaped with greater consideration than other parts of the structure.
In order to plan the conversion of the existing buildings bought by the Edmond de Rothschild Group into a Rothschild Bank’s management offices in Israel, its local management conducted in 2007 a closed competition between several architect offices with reputation and knowledge required for a project of this sort, combining conservation of historic buildings and new construction according to a unique program.
Our office was chosen as the project architects
The planning began in 2008 and included the conservation of the historic buildings built in 1930’s and planned as a residential building and the bank office building in the modern International Style. Likewise, the planning also included the conversion of both buildings to the match the operative needs of the Edmond de Rothschild Group in Israel. New additions were planned as well on the top of the existing structures: in the 20 Rothschild building a new floor was planned along the perimeter of the original structure while the residential building received a new back wing instead of the original one that was dismantled, in addition to the planning of two new floors on its roof.
In order to enable proper joint functioning of both structures a new wing connecting between the existing structures was planned. This wing was planned at the rear of the lot, leaving the original buildings as two distinct masses facing the boulevard. This wing was planned with transparent glass which is supposed to enable right reading of the building additions without impeding the conservation values. The main entrance lobby was planned at the exact location of the original one, featuring new and updated design matching the bank’s needs and enabling its visitors to feel its combined values integrated in the significant historic value of the Edmond de Rothschild Group and its nowadays activity in Israel and worldwide.
The artwork chosen for the entrance lobby is planned to be of the video art type, projected on permanent basis on the center of the roof of the gallery surrounding the lobby at the first floor.
The project is currently in advanced construction stages and is supposed to reach
completion during the year 2015.
In addition to our office, entrusted upon the planning of conservation, conversion and the new addition, the other planning partners are:
Architect Gad Halperin Studio Gad – interior design
Architect Andrey Pantzer – interior design of the lobby
Eng. Chaim Steinberg – construction
Waxman, Govrin, Geva – management and supervision
Mr. Ofir Zelinger on behalf of the client – management and supervision
Project Initiation: 2011
Project Completion: 2015
Project Initiator: Edmond de Rothschild Blvd. Buildings Ltd.