Airport Design. Or How Not to….

There are a thousand good reasons to avoid travelling through Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport.

And a couple of very good reasons.

The public transport connections, for example, between Israel’s only relevant international airport and Israel’s only relevant metropolises are so arduous and poorly co-ordinated it makes one long for the days of The Crusades, when reaching Jaffa or Jerusalem from Europe involved little more taxing than travelling for eight weeks by horse and sailing ship.

And then having explored the country and found it to be an open, friendly, tolerant, welcoming nation, on attempting to depart Israel one is, albeit in cowardly silence, accused of having only travelled to the country to source explosives which you now plan to detonate on your flight home. And are treated with the according lack of respect.

However, by far the best reason to avoid flying at least out of Ben Gurion Airport Tel Aviv comes after the marathon “Where have you hidden the bomb?” rubdown.

Having made it through security before old age and/or boredom kills you, you arrive in a shopping oasis. A shopping oasis strewn with the cheapest Le Corbusier LC2 copies we believe we have ever seen.

lc2 le corbusier copy tel aviv

Le Corbusier LC2 copies at Ben Gurion Airport Tel Aviv.

That “Bauhaus Tel Aviv” isn’t, is slowly being understood. But then the architects responsible never pretended it was. Popular convention has resulted in the sobriquet.

And while the overwhelming majority of architects who built The White City may not have been Bauhaus alumni per se, they were of an age and time when the teachings of Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and co were very much en vogue. Plus as we know, at the same time as Tel Aviv was being built numerous Bauhaus graduates were busy building the Kibbutzim. It would somehow be perverse if there had been no interaction, no attempt to channel the brave new ideas.

There was, therefore, no copying or faking going on… just a lot of interpreting current trends from afar.

And they did a fantastic job of it and have created a varied, interesting and functional urban environment.

The furniture is a different story.

The chairs in Ben Gurion Airport are copies of someone else’s work. Bad, poor quality copies that give the impression that neither designer nor producer have the faintest idea as to what they are doing.

And so whereas the buildings in downtown Tel Aviv reinforce the positive elements of the generic “Bauhaus” style. The chairs in the airport devalue Le Corbusier’s canon and his contribution to 20th century design.

That the state controlled Israel Airports Authority have chosen such chairs for Ben Gurion Airport is not just reprehensible, it’s also highly regrettable.

When we were speaking to British design professionals ahead of the London Olympics several expressed their satisfaction at how the authorities in the UK were incorporating British designers into major infrastructure projects and thus giving British design a platform. One of the most regularly quoted projects was Heathrow Airport.

Airports are obviously gateways; it’s not an analogy you need you have studied semantics to understand. People from foreign lands pass through airports. As a general rule twice. In quick succession.

One can therefore use them as a platform for presenting all that is good, challenging, interesting, exciting, stereotypical, modern, profitable, vibrant, different in your country.

Or, in the case of Ben Gurion Airport Tel Aviv, show your complete contempt for creative talent.

Israel may not have the greatest depth of design talent, but what it has is excellent. From the likes of Ron Arad (Tel Aviv, 1951) over Arik Levy (Tel Aviv, 1963) or Jair Straschnow (Rehovot, 1965) and on to the ever reliable flow of high-quality graduates from internationally recognised institutions such as the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design Jerusalem, including the London based design studio Raw Edges (Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay, both Tel Aviv 1976), Israeli designers have made and continue to make an important contribution to the evolution of global design. And of course since 2010 the Design Museum Holon has provided a national focus point for contemporary design.

Ten kms away Ben Gurion Airport invest in very cheap, very poor copies of internationally recognised design classics.


And so maybe, in retrospect, when all is said and done, it is perhaps not such a bad thing that security takes so long, otherwise we’d all have to endure the farce even longer.

lc2 le corbusier copy

From afar they may make a good impression... but don't get too close.

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