Ben-Ami Shulman, White City Architect

 

Ben-Ami Shulman (b. 1907) in Jaffa, Palestine, was a Jewish modernist architect. He graduated with honors in Engineering and Architecture in 1931 from the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium, where he studied under Victor Horta, a Belgian Art Nouveau architect who was known for his modern and innovative approach to the use of industrial materials such as iron in domestic settings.  Shortly after graduation, Shulman returned to Palestine and by 1933 designed his first building in what would become known as “The White City” of Tel Aviv. The White City, so named due to the stark white exteriors of the buildings, is a collection of over 4,000 International Style/Bauhaus buildings that were designed by not only Shulman, but others, including Bauhaus-trained architects Arieh Sharon, Shmuel Mestechkin, Shlomo Bernstein and Munio Gitai-Weinraub.

telaviv1

Since the British Mandate of 1920, Tel Aviv had experienced a surge in population due to not only the influx of European Jews fleeing Hitler’s Nazi regime, but the previous expulsion of Jews from their homes in Jaffa and Tel Aviv by the Ottoman Turks. Tel Aviv was growing quickly and housing was needed, and there was no shortage of architects to complete the task. Shulman, although skilled at many architectural styles, would contribute many Bauhaus-styled designs to the White City plan, eight of which are now registered landmarks: 57 Nachalat-Binyamin (1933); 8 Dov Hoz (1934); 106 Dizengoff/41 Frishman (1935); 147 Yirmiyahu (1935); 21 Nachalat-Binyamin (1935); 31 Rosenberg (1935); and 3 Mapu (1937).

But by 1947, amid ongoing tensions in British Mandated Palestine, Shulman chose to leave Palestine. On May 14, 1947, just six months before the outbreak of civil war, Shulman boarded the S.S. Rossia in Haifa and sailed to New York City. From there, Shulman immigrated to Canada, to be followed one year later by his wife, Miriam, and teenage sons, Uzi and Avi. Over the next decade, Shulman designed bungalow homes apartment complexes and office buildings for developers in Toronto and Montreal. But, perhaps it was the Shulman’s desire for a warmer climate that influenced his decision to immigrate to the U.S. in September of 1959 and open an architectural practice in Los Angeles.

Over the next three decades, Shulman would design many apartment buildings in the more contemporary LA vernacular style. However, only 18 of his projects are known to still exist. 417 Holt Avenue (1963); 817 St. Andrews Place (1963); 5361 Russell Avenue (1963); 1550 Hobart Avenue (1964); and 1357 Vista Street (1964), to name a few. In 1968, Shulman’s son, Uzi, also a graduate of Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, immigrated to Los Angeles and joined his father’s practice.

Ben-Ami Shulman, an active architect until his death, died in 1986. He never spoke of his contributions to the White City of Tel Aviv.

In 2003, the White City was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and Shulman was posthumously recognized for his significant contributions to the architectural design and development of the White City.

SHULMAN COLLAGE
Row 1: Ben-Ami Shulman; 106 Dizengoff Street/41 Frishman Street, Tel Aviv, 1935 (Photo: Public Domain);  Row 2: 3 Mapu Street, Tel Aviv, 1937 (Photo: Shulman Archive); 8 Doz Hoz, Tel Aviv, 1934 (Photo: Public Domain); Row 3: 617 N. Orange, Los Angeles, CA, 1960s (Photo: someshulmanarchitecture.com)

 

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