A few months ago I took a trip to Israel as a guest of Vibe Israel, in an effort expand my horizons and experience a part of the world about which I know very little. I have been mentally and physically processing that trip since my return and I am still exhausted. I don’t know about you, but when I travel (especially on a trip that is specifically geared towards architecture) I take a lot of photos. Thousands and thousands of photographs. So many in fact, that it’s only been in the last few days that the cramp in my index finger has started to relax.
This was a customized tour focusing on the culture and architecture of Israel, and in the 7 days I was there, I spent some time in Jerusalem, but most of our time was spent touring around Tel-Aviv (which I will touch on is subsequent posts). In addition to the thousands of photos I took, I was in about a thousand photos … and I don’t really like getting my picture taken. The folks at Vibe Israel loved taking group photos of us just about everywhere we went – we even traveled with a photographer whose primary goal was to take our picture – or at least it seemed that way at times.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts about my trip, I thought I would go through our schedule … as told through our “groupie” photos. These pictures are in sequential order and if you look at my expressions, I think you can see just how much I like getting my picture taken.
First, let me introduce the people I spent my time with:
Becky Quintal is the Executive Editor of ArchDaily, where she oversees the publication of ArchDaily and its global sites in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. Prior to assuming her role at ArchDaily, Becky worked as an editor for OMA/AMO, BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), Reiser + Umemoto and the Princeton University School of Architecture.
Born in Mexico and raised in the US, she graduated from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. She also holds an architecture degree from Princeton University and an M.A degree from the School of Visual Arts.
Though she currently resides in Santiago, Chile, Becky has also lived and worked in the Netherlands and Mexico. Her passion for architecture is complemented by her passion for languages and learning.
Laura Mordas-Schenkein is the Editorial Project Manager and a contributing writer for Inhabitat.com, a digital publication dedicated to the future of design. She is also a LEED accredited Feng Shui consultant, lover of the outdoors, and a resident of New York’s Hudson Valley.
Laura’s background in psychology and passion for ecological design led her to the study of the built environment and its profound effect on our physical and emotional well-being. Her sustainable roots began on a Hudson Valley farm, and since then she has contributed research and writing to various publications, including the Huffington Post and Clean Plates.com.
In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, meditative hiking, and yoga, with big dreams of someday running a bed and breakfast in the countryside.
Sam Lubell has written five books about architecture: Never Built Los Angeles, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis, Paris 2000+, London 2000+, Living West, and the just published, Never Built New York. He writes for Wired, The Architect’s Newspaper, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, New York Magazine, Architect, Architectural Record, Architectural Review, Wallpaper*, Contract, and other publications. He co-curated the A+D Architecture and Design Museum exhibitions Never Built Los Angeles and Shelter: Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles. He is currently working on three upcoming books: Never Built New York, Shooting Modernism, and Midcentury Modern Travel Guide.
Bob is widely recognized as the blogger behind Life of an Architect—currently one of the world’s most trafficked individually maintained architectural blog. As an emerging voice within the architectural community, he has bridged the gap and engaged multiple generations of architects and architectural enthusiasts by sharing his personal experiences, professional practice tips, and anecdotes on what it’s like to work with and be an architect. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Bob is a licensed architect, LEED accredited professional, and past recipient of the AIA Dallas ‘Young Architect of the Year’ award.
Bob is active in the Dallas American Institute of architects, currently as a member of the Columns Advisory Board, and previously as Dallas AIA Executive Board – Vice President of Programs, and past multi-term chair of the Texas Society of Architect’s Digital Communications committee. In 2013, his firm was selected as the ‘Firm of the Year’ by the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Since work doesn’t count as a hobby, and Bob doesn’t consider drinking wine a hobby, the closest activity that might count as a leisure activity is smoking BBQ and cooking. It is only his disdain for cleaning dirty dishes that kept Bob from trying to become a chef.
This is Michal Shefer from Vibe Israel. She organized this trip, tried to keep us on schedule (which was an impossible and unforgiving task), was funny in two languages, and has a husband who is my best friend in Israel.
The only two people who haven’t been identified in this picture is Rotem Weisman – the woman wearing the glasses on the back row; and Or Kaplan, who is wearing the big smile and the “hype” shirt on the front row. Both are with Vibe Israel – Rotem guided Michal in the planning and organizing of our tour, and Or was our photographer. Pretty much all the pictures in this post were taken by Or unless noted otherwise (or if it’s painfully obvious … you’ll know what I mean when you see them).
Okay – all square? Great. I am planning on writing a few posts about my trip but I thought it was important to start off with the people with whom I spent my time. Since I had never been to this part of the world, everything I saw or did was new and unique, and having people to share it with only enriches the experience. I have gone on a few of these architectural travel tours over the past few years and the difference between a “good” tour and a “great” tour more times than not has to do with the people surrounding you. Everyone got along exceeding well, and even two months later, we all still talk to one another – but probably still not as much as we would like.
Let’s get to the groupie photos and my facial devolution …
Day One: Art and Architecture tour of Jerusalem’s Old City
Our first groupie photo. Everyone was still on their best behavior since everyone had just met one another just a few hours prior … except for that guy on the left hand-trucking produce – he was new to the group.
Standing in front of the Western Wall.
Outside Villa Sherover – this was a bigger groupie photo, Rotem (far left to right) was with us, as well as Anat Safran (Artistic Director, PechaKucha TLV) and then Abigail Kuperman, who was our guide through Old Jerusalem.
I’m starting to really notice how much taller Sam Lubell is over me.
Hanging out with architecture student from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
Our street/walking tour was coming to an end and we were about to head out for a very big evening out. We got a tour of the Mamilla Hotel (the unbelievably nice hotel where we stayed while in Jerusalem and highly recommended). Joining us for this groupie was Yael Amir, Head of Design for the Mamila Hotel (2nd from the right).
Wrapping up the Mamila Hotel tour … but let’s take another groupie photo. We also had videographer Tammy Eisenberg (seated, far right) following us around.
Did I mention that I don’t really like taking group photos? #teamplayer
It was time to head out to attend the Wolf Prize Ceremony and VIP Cocktail Event. First, it was off to Knesset Israel (The Israeli Parliament building). One thing that was very interesting was just how casual everything was – including this event. I brought a suit but failed to pack the corresponding tie – when I asked if I could take a few moments and run to a shop to buy one, I was told that I shouldn’t do that. Our group was definitely looking sharp – but we were probably among the most dressed up people at the ceremony.
Here is a group photo with the President of Israel – Reuven Rivlin! … and I’m not wearing a tie.
On the far left is Joanna Landau, the Founder & CEO of Vibe Israel. She is the reason I went to Israel, to “meet the people, feel the energy, and share the experience.” They run all different sorts of tours beyond architecture (fashion, food, wine, and music just to name a few). They invite digital influencers to Israel for a week to experience it for themselves.
Great idea and I can state with 100% certainty that what I thought I knew versus what I experienced were worlds apart. This was a very positive experience … and she got us in to meet the President of Israel!
Now we are at the President home, eating and drinking.
We also had a chance to meet with and talk with Wolf Prize Architecture recipient Phyllis Lambert (front and center, 5th from the left) – a Canadian Architect, Philanthropist, and Educator. Truthfully, she deserves her own post – if you don’t know who she is, do yourself a favor and look her up. I think you’ll be amazed.
That was just day one … and it was a busy one. Luckily, the rate of what we did and saw slowed down.
Day Two – Architecture Tour of Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center
Terrific building – amazing light … very moving. As much as I enjoyed my time going through the building, what made it particularly amazing is that the tour was led by Architect Irit Kohavi (4th from the left) who was the project designer from Moshe Safdie’s office. On the far right is Irit’s daughter, Liya, who is also an architect.
I wasn’t in the mood for smiling after touring the building. Looking at everyone else’s expression, I wasn’t the only one.
Founded in 1965 as the National Museum is Israel, this is a must see part of any trip to Israel. Over 50,000 sq. meters large, it houses one of the most amazing and diverse collections in the world.
We had a group of folks joining us on this tour – which was a building tour, not an art tour – which was one the few disappointments I had on this trip. The building is great and worthy or having its own tour, but it damn near killed me to not have any time to stop and look at the collection.
One thing that we did get to do – which was amazing – was to get an early peek at the “Social Construction – Modern Architecture in British Mandate, Palestine” exhibit. And we ran into Phyllis Lambert and the Director of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, James Snyder.
I will be writing a post on this exhibit, so prepare yourself.
(left to right): Michal Sheffer, me, Becky Quintal, Oren Sagiv – Chief Designer, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem) Phyllis Lambert, James Snyder, Laura Mordas-Schenkein, and Sam Lubell.
That evening, we left Jerusalem and drove to Tel Aviv (see, must easier touring day). We checked into our hotel and then headed back out for a Homemade Shabbath dinner at the home of local Architect, Tsila Zak.
Groupie after dinner. To my right is Tsila’s daughter – who sang beautifully for us after dinner, and 2nd from the right, is Tsila herself. This was a charming evening – it’s no small feat to open your home up to strangers and serve them (what seemed like) a 20-course meal.
Sam Lubell wasn’t in this photo because he had to leave early – publishing deadlines don’t wait until you get back home.
Day Three – we took a day trip up North to the city of Haifa. To the far right is Architect Ben Gitai, one of our tour guides for the day.
We closed the day out by touring the Postwar Brutalist Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel. The building was originally designed by Yaakov Rechter in 1968 and recently renovated by Amnom Rechter (Yaakov’s son), who graciously led us on a tour of this masterpiece.
Day Four – To start off day four, we needed to burn calories from the amazing food we have been eating. We were led on a bike tour of new and old Tel Aviv by local architect Yoav Messer (far right) and his wife (2nd from the right). Tel-Aviv is a very friendly pedestrian sort of city and there are bicyclists everywhere, as well as a bike renting system in place that allows you to pick up and drop off bikes at various stations all around town.
I haven’t really mentioned that it was pretty hot in Tel Aviv … so stopping our bike tour for coffee seemed crazy to me (I had juice). Yoav Messer to the far left, and videographer Tammy Eisenberg to the far right.
Yay! Nobody has crashed!!
This is a statue of Ben Gurion, the First Prime Minister of Israel. All I can say is Sam Lubell is either in the best, or the worst, spot.
That evening we went out to the Lewinsky Market District, which is a young, vibrant, and developing area. Our first stop was to Savioney Levinsky, a co-work space founded by four young architects, with workstations rented out to all sorts of creative freelancers.
(from L to R: Rotem , Keshet Rosenblum – Architect and Architecture Journalist, HQ Architects, Yeal Engelhart – architect, blogger & photographer, Adi Iny, Savioney Levinsky Co-Founder, Izzy Michael,Savioney Levinsky Co-Founder, Michal Shefer, Zachi Razel –Savioney Levinsky Co-Founder, Ben Sessler, Savioney Levinsky Co-Founder, me, Becky, Sam and Laura.)
Next we went to Alfred, a cooperative institute for art and culture. I don’t know the names of all these folks – sorry.
But we did go up on the roof so that we could take another groupie. Yay.
Oh my lord … the group photos just keep getting bigger and bigger. This was at a dinner party at Joz VeLoz restaurant. It was a large group which kept the conversations limited to small clusters, but I did get to have some very interesting conversations with notable architects, such as Erez Ella from HQ Architects, Daniel Zarhy from Studio Pez, Natanel Elfassy & Avital Gourary from AN plus, and the Curator of Design and Architecture from The Israel Museum in Jerusalem – Dan Handel.
Day Five – a Hi-Tech deign tour of Autodesk’s Tel-Aviv headquarters with architect Michi Setter (green shirt on the far right) and Shirli Zamir (center) from project design firm Setter Architects.
We were also able to walk around the lab facilities of Autodesk’s Digital Manufacturing Group – with the tour led by Etan Tsarfati, the head of the Tel-Aviv team. (l to r: Shirli, Michi, Etan, Sam, Becky, me, Laura, Joanna, and Michal)
Then we went to the AOL Nautilus facilities where we had a meeting to discuss “Innovation” with Israeli entrepreneurs.
So. Many. Goupies.
Front row (left to right): Omer Matz – Splacer, Joanna Landau – Vibe Israel, Itai Palti – Architect, Conscious Cities
Middle row (left to right): Sam Lubell, Becky Quintal, Laura Mordas-Schenkein, Roni Kenet Hermelin – Vibe Israel, Adva David – Vibe Israel
Back Row (left to right): Michal Shefer – Vibe Israel, Bob Borson – Life of an Architect, and Rotem Wiesman – Vibe Israel
Did you know that Richard Meier designed a tower in Tel-Aviv? He did, and we toured it.
We met about a million people on this tour and I have been scouring my notes for the names of everyone… and I have missed a few. I’ll come back and amend this once I get the information but I can’t find the name of the woman to the far left, but then it’s Erez Ella – HQ Architects, Becky Quintal, Bob Borson, Yirmi Hoffman – Head of Preservation Dept, Tel-Aviv-Yaffo Municipality, Laura, and Michal. We did a walking tour around Tel-Aviv of postwar Brutalism.
At the end of the day, there was a farewell cocktail party at the Lily & Bloom Hotel. This was a chance where everyone we had met during our trip had a chance to come together and say goodbye, reinforce connections, and generally enjoy ourselves. (left to right: Becky, Sam, Laura, Joanna, and me)
Oh … you thought we were done. Considering that we had a farewell party the night before, I can understand the confusion. On the morning of our last day, we toured the Porter School of Environmental Studies (which is the greenest building in all of the Middle East) led by the architect of the project, Dr. Joseph Cory from Geotectura (shown in the #3 spot).
Finally, we had lunch with architects Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg – who designed the restaurant ‘Pastel‘ that was located in the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art (which was design by Preston Scott Cohen).
After that, it was time to get on a plane and head home – but if you’ve made it this far, I thought I would show you some of the other places we visited:
Here we are at Easter Island … it was incredible.
The Roman Coliseum – how could we not see this?
The Pyramids at Giza … it was really hot there but totally worth the trip.
The Eiffel Tower … naturally.
and our final destination, the Statue of Liberty.
I am going to be putting together some shorter – and more focused – posts in the next few weeks but I thought I should try to convey to you the breadth and depth of this trip. It was the sort of experience that only comes a few times in a person’s lifetime … if they’re lucky. I am grateful that I was able to spend it with such quality people.
Cheers – or should I say, “שיהיה לך יום נהדר!”