The latest project by the team of Israeli architects led by Asaf Lerman, completed this year, is an impressive new cultural centre north of Tel Aviv, TEO – Theodor Herzl Centre for Culture, Art, and Content, named after one of the founding fathers of Zionism at the end of the 19th century.
The centre designed by Lerman Architects starts across from the Mediterranean Sea in the residential district of Herzliya (also named after Herzl), distinguished by the presence of numerous embassies and the luxurious homes of members of the Israeli élite. The TEO Centre stands out visually among these private homes and tall buildings with its vast size and reduced height: the centre, which stands on a square 50x50 m lot, has only one level, with the exception of a single two-storey block on one side of its perimeter. The centre plays a very important social role, providing a public exhibition space in an otherwise exclusive neighbourhood with no attractions for the public, characterised solely by the high walls of private properties.
The TEO Centre plays an essential role in the Herzlyia community with its numerous functions: the 2500 square metres of floor space designed by Lerman Architects contain a conservatory, a school of dance, a number of art and ceramic workshops, an exhibition gallery, a recreational centre for seniors and a coffee shop. The two-story block contains a big library with a vast 300 square metre outdoor terrace. The architects of Asaf Lerman’s team explain that the uniqueness of the design "lies in the coherence of a precise geometric module that is strictly enforced throughout; concrete (on-site casts & precast units), textured glass, and metal flow seamlessly from exterior to interior surfaces."
With its square shapes and hefty blocks of concrete retaining the textures of the wooden formworks, Theodor Herzl Center for Culture, Art, and Content may at first look like an austere Brutalist construction. But Lerman Architects’s experience goes back a long way, as the studio was founded in 2006 and has worked on some of Israel’s most important buildings. So we should not allow ourselves to be misled: simplicity is the hallmark of their style, skilfully toned down with use of furnishings and finishes made with warmer materials such as wood, an essential element in the school of music.
An advanced technology developed specifically for the project keeps the shape of the roof streamlined and lightweight while guaranteeing perfect waterproofing and reduction of thermal bridges, though of course the temperate climate of the Mediterranean contributes a lot to the achievement of energy efficiency and climate control.
One essential scenic element is in fact the internal patio offering almost 300 square metres of space to anyone seeking peace and quiet in an ethereal and inspiring place. A single mature oak tree rises out of the soil, absorbing and refracting direct sunlight to create a visual composition which joins the organic forms of nature with human geometric shapes when viewed from any point of view.
Client: Herzliya development company Ltd.
Completion year: September 2019
Built area: 2500 m2
Location: Herzliya, Israel
Principal architect: Asaf Lerman
Project architects: Danielle Nagila, Nimrod Schenkelbach, Itai Bachor
Photo credit: Amit Geron, Nimrod Levy