The Reflecting City

Words: Hila Shemer
Photography: Yael Engelhart

tel aviv’s growing skyline is young – shifting space and time in the white city. hila shemer provides insight into the bold statement made by the distinct architectural characteristics of tel aviv. Surrounded by a mix of old and new, and thriving within its natural mediterranean border – it is a statement that reflects not only the objects of

the city but also its inhabitants.

Over the past decade, a high new skyline has emerged in Tel Aviv. Towers peak prominently from the low rise “carpet” of the White City and anonymous glass curtain-walls stretch high alongside the white Mediterranean plaster. Clearly, this reaching for the sky impacted both the planning as well as the informal conventions of architecture, varying from economics to environmental issues. 

These complex factors for the UNESCO declared city created a visual and conceptual distortion in the city, also evoking a radical phenomenon to be explored. One of them is the relativity between the X axes and the Y axes of the city, together stretching the space on the Z axes. Meaning, as the duplication of space is occurring vertically in the concrete structure of the towers, a relative duplication of depth is occurring in the gaze of the glass veneers, duplicating the city in all its projections. In this multiplicity and shift, lies one of the most fundamental artistic tasks within architecture – to take part in the experience of the changing of space and time.

As such, the architectural vertical object is projecting the moving clouds, the vivid streets mirroring and duplicating the public activity and the fast traffic stampeding from its own shadowing image. This clash, merging the static and heavy man-made world into the primeval movement of its surroundings, eliminates the static material, avoiding its fossil ending, freeing the glass city from its ageless appearance and trace-free presence.

This all is an awaking experience of space as we perceive it. After looking at the world as a set of potential posts on social media, which has greatly weakened the way we experience space, this is the comeback of the present experience. The duplicated city had created a thick enough space so it can contain both the material and its absence, both its being and its image. Utilizing the materialistic characteristics to make an intellectual and conceptual statement.    

Fortunately enough, due to the relatively spacious urban texture in Tel Aviv, this reflective city is everywhere to be seen. A wide perspective offering a view through the gaps and urban voids on the vertical massive fields of reflection. Added to that is the Levantine sunlight, collaborating to make this phenomenon perform almost all year long. Tel Aviv has been celebrating these attributes to enrich the form of the city. By introducing the complexity as it is – the old with the new, Tel Aviv has gained a pleasurable critical image of itself, a commentary on the post-modern life. The decorative self-absorbed facade of the 20th century is replaced by an equitable surface, reflecting all equally. It is tolerant to how or what passed by, without exclusion.

Tel Aviv has a natural border with the sea, perhaps the towers of Tel Aviv are the vertical experience to the horizontal – where the sheen of the water is reflecting the surroundings on the moving surface of the water. Like the clouds move the towers, the waves undulate the world to their rhythm, sparking in the most compelling ways.    

But it is not only the city reflecting in its own pond, falling in love with its image. The image absorbs and skews the personal subjective element into it, showing its true apparition to the human experience. You are always needed to take part in this narrative – both to see and to be seen. The juxtaposition of the image of you in the collective reflection is anaesthetizing the alienation one may feel from the scale of the towers. The sensation of weightlessness the object carries, with the presence of our own image, is powerful enough to engage us back with the world, outside of the black mirrors and into the depth of the looking glass. Where the object becomes absent and you become present, where the true ethics of architecture exist, humble yet vital. It is only under these conditions that architecture can engage the masses in its true purpose.   

As you are reflecting with the city in the endless extension of its image, you are equally visible to all its components. You are passing by and in it, both at the same time. You are already expecting the unexpected that will appear next to you for a brief moment, but still with enough time for the world to appear and perform for you. In that moment, you become fast. Fast like the moving clouds, like the rushing crowd. Fast as the light capturing your reflection. For that split second, you are light and you are the city.        

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The Reflecting City

The Reflecting City

Words: Hila Shemer