The Crazy House, Tel Aviv’s Gaudi-Style Building

The sea-facing façade of the Crazy House

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Since 2003, when Tel Aviv’s impressive cluster of Bauhaus buildings was recognized by UNESCO as a world-heritage site, the city is first and foremost synonymous with its modern architecture. Nonetheless, there are also several outliers throughout the city which defy its architectural uniformity. Perhaps the most notable of which is the aptly nicknamed “Crazy House”, whose whimsical façades often evoke extreme bewilderment among passersby.

In a city defined by 20th century modernism, it is often challenging to come across an enclave that deviates away from its surroundings. Despite Tel Aviv’s adherence to orthogonal simplicity, there are in fact a series of unconventional oddities every couple of streets or so.


As its name implies, the Crazy House is one of the city’s most unusual edifices. Nestled in the seaside street of Hayarkon, “Habinyan Hameshuga”, as it is locally known, was the brainchild of Jewish-Swiss developer Israel Bollag, who during the late 1960’s purchased an empty lot right next to the scenic coastline of Tel Aviv.


As an ardent Zionist, Bollag aspired to erect a monumental monolith which will imbue the then dull beachfront with a playful and eccentric character. Despite his best effort and good will, the municipal authorities were reluctant to approve his plans, stating that they don’t comply with local building codes and regulations. Undeterred by the numerous obstacles, Bollag ultimately managed to persuade the local officials to give his ambitious project a green light. The construction started in the early 1980’s, nearly a decade after the building was first conceived.


Designed by Bollag’s longtime-friend, Swiss architect Léon Gaignebet, the 5-story edifice on 181 Hayarkon Street was built with a concrete frame, like much of Tel Aviv. But that’s about where the similarities end – with a hodgepodge of weirdly shaped elements across all four façades, the Crazy House bears no resemblance to any other building anywhere around.


Facing the Mediterranean Sea, the western façade is decorated with a thin layer of organically shaped sculptures. Made entirely of glass fiber reinforced cement, the white-colored elements earned the building its reputation of being a Gaudi-Style monument, presumably inspired by Casa Batlló in Barcelona. In fact, even the incumbent Israeli prime minister as of 2023, Benjamin Netanyahu, has mistakenly identified the architect as the Catalonian illustrious architect Antonio Gaudi, while looking for an apartment in the house.


The building’s rear façade on the other hand has none of these ivory-hued structures. Instead, a vertical garden intertwined with a colorful mural and reliefs spans across its entire length. Originally, Bollag’s plan included the beautification of the entire street where his whimsical house stands, however, due to bureaucratic reasons, merely a single bench was created. Situated in front of its bigger sibling, this piece of street furniture shares the same quirky style with the aforementioned elements. While one can only wonder how the entire street could have looked like if Bollage’s idea had come to fruition, his “crazy” creation provides us all with an eye-catching sight to gawk at.