In the case of Tel Aviv, I think the relationship between what people have done to their individual buildings, apartments and shops, both for commercial and residential purposes, has impacted both the block and the city. Designed without major commercial centers, these have grown through demand and eaten through the residential fabric, changing not only the appearance and function the buildings, but also the streetscape and city-wide traffic patterns, both pedestrian and vehicular.
Following are various types of building alterations I have discovered in the urban fabric of central Tel Aviv, which repeat throughout the city, and have had the power to change both the existing fabric and newer implementations of the plan.
Most restaurants put tables and chairs out during the day. Some even borrow public benches for their services.
As a practice that gradually builds permanence, these start chairs, add paint on the ground, then move to flowerboxes and awnings, and finally construct an extension to the building.
Restaurant owners also build out into arcades, but always leave a gap for pedestrians. So while the access remains intact (though now feels semi-private), the permeability of the arcade disappears.
Filling in the gap is another common practice. Because the majority of the area was residential, almost all buildings were setback on all sides from the property line. In the homegrown commercial areas, owners have compensated by adding a single story addition to the side of their building, which creates a continuous shop-filled edge along the sidewalk.
Usually one side builds out to the lot line, while the other leaves a narrow space for access to the back of the buildings.
In areas that have remained residential, one of the key components for alteration has been the balcony.
Plastic shades were the original way to enclose balconies. They closed off the connection to the street and flattened the façade. Nissim Davidov, Nitza Smuk and others have written about this phenomenon throughout the city. Now these shades are being replaced by glass, which might reopen the visual connection, but still cut the aural relationship.
Finally, 2 story penthouses pepper the terraces of the buildings. New regulations allow owners to add two stories to their buildings as an incentive to renovate.
Each act happens in the interest of the individual owner. But an individual act sets a standard, and others follow. These moves have rippled around Tel Aviv until they have restructured the street and sidewalk, and moved commercial zones deep into residential areas. Furthermore, many of these changes to existing buildings have been incorporated into the planning and design of later phases of Tel Aviv. More on that later….