FIBI Tower Melds Old and New in Tel Aviv

March 8, 2010

Pei Cobb Freed completes first project in Israel.

By Esther Hecht

As Tel Aviv celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, it witnessed the outcome of a planning decision made in the 1990s that had two seemingly contradictory goals: to preserve the architectural form and human-scale streetscape of the historic central business district, and to preserve the district’s function. The new 32-story headquarters of the First International Bank of Israel (FIBI) is a marriage of the two goals.

Pei Cobb Freed
Photo courtesy Pei Cobb Freed

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The $200-million tower, Pei Cobb Freed’s first completed project in Israel, was designed by the firm’s Ian Bader with local architect Arie Kutz of Nir-Kutz Architects. The 423-foot tower is the exact height of the nearby Shalom Tower (1965), Tel Aviv’s first skyscraper. Designed to resemble an ice cube, the new building tapers as it rises and has a crisp, asymmetrical form that is based on equilateral triangles.

Given the steamy climate, the architects opted for an aluminum-and-glass double curtain wall, with computer-controlled blinds (it is Tel Aviv’s first “active” curtain wall). Before cooled air is removed from the building, it circulates between the exterior walls, helping to further cool the building. Through energy savings, the client expects to recoup the additional cost of this system within seven years.

Constructed on a 30,000-square-foot lot, the FIBI building involved the preservation of two low-rise historic buildings. Built in the 1920s, before Tel Aviv became a world center of the International Style, the two plastered brick structures are in the eclectic style that is unique to Israel, incorporating Eastern European influences and sometimes Middle Eastern elements. The façade of one building was integrated into the FIBI tower’s lobby and now houses bank tellers. The other structure—a private home—will become a public building that may contain an art gallery and café.

Bader notes that he has a personal connection to the site. His great-uncle, architect Israel Dicker, edited the Tel Aviv-based architecture magazine Habinyan in the 1930s and 1940s, and its editorial offices were across the street from the FIBI tower.

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