On the Starting Line
Shortly before the opening celebrations of The Liebling Haus - White City Center, CEO Shira Levi-Benyemini and Content Manager Sharon Golan-Yaron answer three questions.
What will The Liebling Haus offer to residents and visitors?
“There aren’t many places dedicated to both content and form, and the Center was created by this amazing synthesis. It did not happen in one day: we had to let the walls speak to plan what would be here and working here before the renovation began helped us determine its future. The main exhibition, for example, is a walk around the house accompanied by an audio guide. We partnered with an industrial designer, a playwright, and a photographer, and studied the materials of the Liebling House, and our journey led us to 1930s Germany. The result is the opening exhibition of the Center, focused on the Transfer Agreement. The content we develop is based on a fundamental principle of modernism – rethinking every aspect of our lives. We ask what the city is made of, what is conservation, how many stories the White City encapsulates, and more, and invite the audience to hear and see. I hope visitors will feel it.”
“The modernism that developed in Tel Aviv is part of our urban DNA. In Israel, people usually speak of Heritage as Jewish identity or wars, but we say that modernism shaped the city just as much and gave it its unique character; it’s not a coincidence that everyone wants to live in Tel Aviv. This character is reflected not only in the design of the buildings but also in their size, proportions, and interaction with the street following the Geddes Plan. That’s why it’s important for us right now, when Tel Aviv is experiencing massive construction, to take a step back and cherish the values and essence that make the city.”
What drew you to this challenge?
“What I said before :-) It’s an opportunity to operate inside the system, ask questions, and rethink conventions that I had not felt comfortable with before. Doubt and versatility generate interest and relevance to diverse audiences. To create cultural change, we need to remain relevant to the reality in which we live. There’s no point in dwelling on nostalgia and heritage without understanding their inherent complexities and conflicts because they affect us to this day. The same is true for planning processes: if we understand the challenges of planning and managing a city, we feel an affinity for it and can participate, influence, and shape it. The exhibition on the ground floor will feature different aspects of conservation and development, and be a starting point for the dialogue we want to encourage here.”
“I think you can make an impact only by establishing a multidisciplinary center that encourages a kind of active urbanism. We invite the public to participate and take responsibility for the changes that happen around us instead of leaving it to entrepreneurs and neoliberal market, as is happening today. Our space and life within it will be a permanent and integral part of the Center’s agenda. We will offer a platform for everyone - kids, people who live in the city, and tourists who come to visit - to discuss, recognize, and understand the significance of the environment through the community.”
What are the three things you would like to see in Tel Aviv in the next decade?
“I’d like to see stronger links between people and the environment. It could be little things, like cultivating a garden as a tribute to the gardens that Geddes dreamed would bloom around the buildings. That connection and caring are done by a communal garden or placemaking, so I’d like to see more of that. I want to hear less about the association between Bauhaus and real estate, or conservation and property value. We need a cultural context as well as an economic one. There is room for entrepreneurship and market economy, but it must be balanced by cultural values that have no price tag. And last but not least, that architecture, the heritage of the city, and its transformation will be part of the urban culture and everyday experience, not just for the fans or pundits. I imagine my twenty-year-old niece asking her boyfriend if he wants to walk in Allenby and listen to an audio tour or attend a discussion about the impact of modernism on cooperative housing in the city. Then they will be more attentive to the city.”
“Awareness, awareness, awareness. I see the word Luxury used in real estate advertisements as a pinnacle of success, but to me, it does not speak of values. I would like residents to invest in renovating the facades of the buildings, not just in eye-catching interior design. I would like to talk about long-term materials - not just sparkly cladding. I want renovations to be done by skilled, trained individuals, and having an appreciation for craftsmanship, not just the academic aspects. That’s urban activism. Architecture is more than design for professionals, it affects our everyday life and our sense of space, and so we must discuss building in the broadest sense - including its cultural aspects. The environment is a crucial issue, and conservation is a sustainable and existential action: using existing material rather than replacing it. Environmentally, it is better to leave an existing building than building a new one, no matter how advanced and energetically balanced it may be.”