The Weizmann House

by Jenna Romano | 17.12.17

The fate of Israeli design has always been guided by a myriad of outside cultures and movements—one of the strongest impacts on architectural design coming from the Bauhaus movement of the early 20th century. At this time in Israel, and in particular Tel Aviv, architects became truly absorbed with the Bauhaus approach to design; a movement which dreamed of a balance of form and function, and idealized a new, fresh, creative cultural future. This certainly settled well with a country that was leaving its past behind and looking to re-define itself.

A handful of prolific architects surfaced in Israel as a result of this movement and symbiotically brought the country to life with their work during the beginnings of the state’s establishment. Architecture photographer Michael Palmer was recently asked by the Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv to profile one of these influential names: Eric Mendelsohn. 

Palmer, who is an architecture photographer currently based in New York, spent the past month capturing the journey of Mendelsohn’s work; buildings which were designed in the 1930s, during the British Mandate period and which greatly influenced local architecture in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In 1934, Mendelsohn began planning a series of projects on Chaim Weizmann’s behalf and in 1935 had opened an office in Jerusalem, where he had a great influence on the local architecture.  

These photographs exhibit one of the architect’s most well-known projects, the Weizmann House in Rehovot. Mendelsohn built the Weizmann House as a personal home for Chaim Weizmann and his wife Vera in 1937. When Weizmann became the first president of the State of Israel, he continued to live in the house, and it seems Mendelsohn, with his spacious and elegant design, had anticipated this role for the building.

Today, the Weizmann House is part of the Weizmann Institute. The building was restored in 2016-2017 and just re-opened a few months ago as a museum devoted to the Weizmann family. Palmer took the photos of the house just as the restoration had finished. Describing the house to Telavivian, the photographer states: “ The Weizmann House looks brand new and stunning. Standing in the main foyer at the foot of the soaring spiral staircase, bathed in the elegance of Mendelsohn’s vision is an elevating experience The house is in mint condition, it looks ready for Chaim and Vera Weizmann to walk through the doors, and that made it a good time to take pictures and publish them.”

These gorgeous photos will be part of a joint project between the Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv and the city of Essen in Germany, celebrating the Bauhaus centenary in 2019!


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