Downtown Tel Aviv won’t come as a surprise to students of modern design. But for those for whom a mention of Israeli architecture conjures images of the Wailing Wall or some far-flung kibbutz, the density, urbanity, and bracing modernity of the city—founded only in 1909, unlike nearby Jaffa, which is over 3,000 years old—are a shock. Sporting, perhaps, the greatest collection of Bauhaus architecture in the world, the Tel Aviv–Jaffa metropolis is also incredibly dense, with around 40 percent of Israel’s population and some 18,500 people per square mile. As a point of comparison, that’s denser than the São Paulo, Shanghai, and New York metro areas. Interwar modernist architects who immigrated to British-controlled Palestine are responsible for the city’s unique architectural character. But those designers of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s who created Tel Aviv’s famed White City, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were blessed with a pioneering city plan by Scottish biologist Sir Patrick Geddes and plenty of space to build.
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