Florentin is one of Tel Aviv’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods. Popular with young people, artists and other free spirits, the densely-built area has a different character from the rest of the city. With a large housing project that successfully navigates the small scale of its immediate surroundings, Ilan Pivko is the latest architect to contribute to this area.

In the 1920s, when the port town of Jaffa became too small to hold its population, people started settling just northeast of it, forming an extension that would eventually grow to be Tel Aviv. Today, the low and terraced buildings of Florentin form a marked contrast to the city’s other neighbourhoods, where the buildings are generally much higher. The former warehouses, shops and houses are in various states of disrepair, making rents relatively affordable. Gentrification is on the rise, though.

For a razed building block on Shalma Road, the municipality drew an urban plan that deviated from the rectangular examples that are characteristic for the neighbourhood: instead of narrow, parallel streets, this block was to have two diagonal streets, together forming an X. ‘This plan, with its sharp corners, didn’t comply with the historical street pattern,’ says Pivko. ‘I wasn’t happy with it as it didn’t feel right, so I decided to do it differently.’

Pivko drew four organically-shaped building blocks with bean-like floor plans, resulting in curved elevations that lend the project an indulgent character. The four buildings embrace a beautiful square that’s paved with Ipe hardwood decking and lined with trees, providing shade and a car free environment – a kind of public space that’s rare in Florentin.

Pivko originally wanted to clad the façades with bamboo but that material proved not to be resistant enough against the salty Mediterranean climate. Vertical plastic louvres now line the elevations, giving the impression of wooden slats. The trees in the square were only planted after the large parking garage in the basement, stretching over several floors, was completed.