Asaf Gottesmanby Lotte Beilin | 02.07.17
Architects Asaf Gottesman and Ami Szmelcman founded Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture more than a decade ago. Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture is an award-winning, forward thinking and innovative architecture firm based out of Israel and France, with an expanding array of projects around the world.
The firm is behind the creation of many of the stunning buildings in Israel such as at Tel Aviv University, IDC Herzliya and also some of Tel Aviv’s leading art galleries.
Mr. Gottesman’s first project was the restoration of the famed Richard Kauffman Bauhaus building on Hess Street over 25 years ago. The building was sold by Hebrew University in 1992 through public auction and was renovated into a family residence.
Telavivian had the pleasure of interviewing the renowned architect, to find out more about how his architectural flair embodies the person he is today and the way he lives his life.
Hi Asaf, can you please give us some background information about yourself?
Born in Tel-Aviv, married plus 3. Co-founder of Gottesman-Szmelcman Architecture. Defining features: optimism tempered by experience.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no such thing. I am travelling approximately 240 days a year. What I aim for is that each day includes moments of curiosity and creativity, as well as discourse and meditative solitude. I wake up feeling my bones and fall asleep exhausted.
What did you think your future would look like when you were younger?
Younger is anywhere south of where I am at the moment so there have been multiple futures and realities. I have always been driven by my imagination. Over the years I have been an author, antiques dealer, commodities trader, artist, property developer, hi-tech entrepreneur, as well as, an architect. My mother, on the other hand, always thought I would end up being an architect but it took me a while to arrive at the same conclusion.
How has your background influenced you?
It is impossible for me to imagine what my life would have been like divorced from my particular background. I grew up in multiple locations in a family driven by an ethos of work, a suspicion of dogmas and a disdain for arrogance. My parents instilled within my brothers and me a love for culture and also of Israel. When I was a child “happiness” was never an objective. It was a side product of achievement. This is important to understand because concrete goals require one to focus on action rather than some ephemeral sense of well-being. Every stage in my life was driven by curiosity, optimism and a fundamental belief that if I work hard and remained focused I would succeed.
How has Israel/Tel Aviv’s architectural landscape changed in the past years?
In 2012, I had an exhibition at Chelouche Gallery entitled I want, I want, I want. I exhibited a selection of photographs demonstrating how the residents of Tel Aviv chose to realize their individual desires with a complete disregard to the quality of their built environment. The exhibition captured the transitional nature of architecture in Tel Aviv. A city that is still characterized by creeping decay and individual selfishness, there is, nevertheless, a growing appreciation of architecture coupled with a slightly more effective supervision system of the Tel Aviv Municipality. Market forces are leading the majority to the conclusion that architecture has an inherent value and maintaining the quality of the built environment enriches life and makes financial sense.
How do you feel about this change/these changes?
In general I think it is positive, perhaps not in relation to the 1930’s but certainly in comparison to post independence reality. The complex socio-economic reality of Tel Aviv is spurring urban growth. It has aspects of gentrification but also an understanding that the solution to the country’s problems can be mitigated by increased density. The growing phenomena of TAMA 38 whereby housing associations approve either additions or rebuilding in order to get better quality housing is an incredible achievement, especially in a cultural milieu where it is difficult to achieve consensus even in a monologue.
Which places in the country/city embody these changes and why?
I believe the change is taking place throughout Israel but most profoundly in Tel Aviv and the surrounding towns. I personally believe in greater density and the richness of diversity. Density leads to social, economic and cultural growth while interweaving multiple functions within the urban fabric results in vibrant city life. Tel Aviv, in spite of the rising costs, is doing an amazing job in ensuring its vibrancy.
Do you have a certain architectural style? What is it?
I have always disliked the word ‘style’. It underlines the superficial, it celebrates image rather than content and I believe in creating content, in generating real values.
As an architect, what is your approach?
Every project is a process of definition; in determining the qualities of a site, the requirements of program, and then drawing upon the richness of the imagination. For me it is not really about what the building looks like but how it will contribute to our existence; how it can enrich our daily lives and contribute to our well-being. Each project is unique. There is always the benefit of accumulated experience but it is actually our willingness to debate the validity of our assumptions that generates better architecture.
What do you like to have around?
My wife and kids, close friends, the beauty of architecture within nature, a space to think, and a nearby café.
What do you enjoy most about your own home?
I love our home. It is the first private home I designed and it has become a container of objects and our memories. Time has given our home a richer patina, a sense of depth. It is a living work of art that in spite of its familiarity always manages to surprise me.