It was the magic mushrooms that did it, Yaacov Rechter’s iconic, brutalist, concrete, otherworldly canopies popped up on the cover of
‘This City’, Men Of North Country’s second album.
In the home hub to the High Priests of hi-tech and world-class International Style architecture, Yaacov Rechter’s Kikar Atarim remains a challenge on the eye. But the challenge doesn’t equate to dislike; the father of Israeli Brutalism created a bold juxtaposition of brutalist architecture, thrusting two fingers up, challenging its Bauhaus neighbours. It speaks to the visual tension in the city and makes it a great if somewhat strange place to photograph.
Hidden in plain sight sandwiched between the road and the beach, a level up from the promenade, brutalist Atarim Square aka Kikar Atarim started life as Namir Square. It was aspirational, built on the site of shacks in a crime-riddled unkempt strip by the side of the beach. In the 1970s as the Tel Aviv coastline we know today began to spring up, Rechter created a space with a very particular vibe which today we call brutalism. The concrete design incorporated a shopping centre and a nightclub and gave access to beach parking, but soon the project fell apart and slipped into disrepair to such a degree that, at the request of the wife of the man whose name it honoured, Mayor Namir, the name was changed in order to disassociate his legacy from the concrete wreckage of a failed project. Kikar Atarim was born.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, today the square is at the centre of a battle whose outcome will have a long reach. Developers see the space between the run of luxury hotels and apartments as a prime location, locals say get your hands off, this is a space between places, a right-of-access and a piece of local history. The battle looked for the world as if it were done but in November 2018 there was a pause for thought leaving the municipality, the developers and the activists a space to think.
Yashiv Cohen, the lead singer of MONC perhaps unwittingly immortalised the square, the album cover features something that no longer exists, he puts it succinctly ‘the shrooms have gone’. The Tel Aviv band describe their sound as space mod lounge music that emerged from Bauhaus inspired architecture and ‘a thousand other influences, most of them unexpected’, what better way to explore and fuse the music and architecture than to join band member Boaz Wolf on his journey around the city. He explains ‘we love our city so we decided to play it’, what they created was a video with all sounds recorded live on location, ‘no processing Foley or overdubbing.’ It’s not by chance that the steps leading to the square get a musical makeover as Boaz heads to the promenade at the end of the film or that the moment of real change is captured. Today that strip of promenade beneath Atarim Square has changed beyond recognition, Everything laid out ready to be assembled, has now been set in stone, creating a new chapter in the city’s life. A ‘Tel’ is an archaeological site revealing layers of civilization and ‘Aviv’ means spring or renewal. Wrapped into the city’s name is the explanation for the demise of the square and the development beyond, it is a city that keeps reinventing itself layer upon layer.
We asked lead singer, Yashiv for some insider tips for visitors to the UNESCO White City, Tel Aviv.
The best place to eat right now? ‘Tel Aviv has A LOT of good places to eat in, especially street food. The usual suspect would be Abu Hassan hummus in Jaffa, the original one in Dolphin street, and my current fav is a little restaurant called Dok, using only fresh and local ingredients and making wonders with them’.
Must see architecture? ‘Tons of buildings in this city that I love, being a fan of brutalism and International Style or Bauhaus. I’d like to give a shout out to my guide and mentor for these things, Gil Aaronsohn from 79 Architecture. What I love most are old raggedy Bauhaus apartment buildings which are scattered in the streets and brutalist staircases, I’m a sucker for those’.
So what’s your take on Atarim Square? ‘Just before the This City album’s release and before the shrooms were taken off the square was such a beautiful thing. There’s a big debate here right now about what’s to become of it. Money lords want another tower. Hopefully, that won’t happen. I think it’s the last place that connects the city to the sea which isn’t shadowed by a hideous tower’.