The first thing you notice when you arrive at the Poli House Hotel in Tel Aviv is the beautiful curves of its Bauhaus facade. As if a pristine white ship has parked up right in the heart of the city, the hotel looks over the surrounding flea market, Allenby’s textile shops and the bustling pedestrians that walk past in their thousands.
The building itself has a fascinating history. Built in 1934 for the wealthy Ukrainian Polishuk family – hence Poli, it soon became one of the most quintessential examples of Bauhaus architecture, and has since been home to a multitude of different enterprises. For decades, the building was a quasi-commercial hub for different businesses, including a printing press in the ’60s and ’70s. Known as the ‘clandestine Etzel printing press’, the publishers occupied a small space on the first floor.
But to most residents, the building is famous historically for once housing Naaley Pil (Elephant Shoes) a footwear shop for kids, where with every purchase, children would receive a balloon or a yo-yo, a tradition that the hotel will look to commemorate with an exhibition later this year.
However, after such prosperity, the building fell into disuse, and became a run-down, derelict shadow of its former self. In need of both architectural preservation and a future vision, hotelier Leon Avigad decided to take on the challenge, and embarked on a long period of redevelopment when he bought the property in 2007.
For Avigad, it was ‘a life-changing project’. Between 2007–2016, he oversaw an entire revamp of the building, transforming in into the vibrant and colourful hotel it is today. It was a painstaking process, not only because the building was protected by the city municipality, but also because Avigad was eager to do things thoughtfully and in good taste: preservational architect Nitza Szmuk was brought in for her world-class expertise; renowned designer Karim Rashid was appointed to lead the design of the hotel, imbuing it with a light and whimsical feel; leading Israeli chef Meir Adoni was hired to head up the catering, including beautiful organically-produced breakfasts in the cafe downstairs; cement tiles were brought over from Italy; the staff’s uniforms were designed by an Israeli couturier. Not a stone was left unturned in Avigad’s delicate construction of this hotel, oozing with charisma and style.
As you walk into the downstairs entrance, the first thing that strikes you is the psychedelic patterns of the yellow, white and black surfaces, typical of Karim Rashid’s style. A small concierge is ready and waiting with offerings of lemon-infused water to soften the Middle Eastern heat, as well as a shot of Arak, a local liquor. Curiously – but fittingly – the reception is on the top floor, leading you out onto the exquisite rooftop that Avigad describes as ‘the Tel Aviv hotspot’ in the summer months.
Kitted out with a heated pool, jacuzzi, triangular bar and spacious spots to sit and relax, not to mention the panoramic views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean, the rooftop is the hotel’s pièce de résistance. It stands to reason that Avigad chose to place the reception here: ‘I wanted everyone to see it,’ he says.
In the rooms, you’ll find Rashid’s psychedelic patterns on the walls, offering what feels like a luxurious and stylish stay. With its 40 rooms equipped with modern fittings, a walk-in shower and rainfall shower-head, a work desk, minibar, Wi-Fi, a 40-inch flat screen and dreamy mattresses, the Poli offers all the expected amenities of a luxury hotel, without the pretentiousness. Avigad wanted the space to feel like a microcosm of the city: ‘Colourful, funny, happy, doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is Tel Aviv.’
The Poli House also offers a luxurious spa service, with a full menu of indulgent offerings. Offering both individual and couples treatments, the spa perfectly complements the rooftop space, as combining a massage and a dip in the jacuzzi provides a satisfying and relaxing wellness experience.
When the hotel’s facilities have been exhausted, Tel Aviv awaits. Step outside and you’re immediately in the heart of Carmel market, a bustling souk selling groceries, souvenirs, spices and handmade crafts. Located on the intersection of five major streets, Tel Aviv’s spectacular sights are all within walking distance, another unique feature of the Poli House.
With its history, geographical positioning, authentic style and luxury facilities, the Poli is emerging as a modern hub for tourists and residents alike. As Avigad succinctly puts it: ‘This is the bellybutton of the city.’