Holon: Designs on Stardom

Photo by Ron Bernthal

Six miles from Tel Aviv’s beach-front hotels, Holon is a nondescript working-class city of 185,000, a congested bedroom community that seems far-removed from the bigger city’s shimmering glass office buildings, and glamorous nightlife.

And so, a few years ago, city officials began an intensive campaign to improve the city’s cultural amenities.

The Holon Children’s Museum and the Israeli Center for Digital Art opened in 2001. Then came the Israeli Cartoon Museum, opened in 2007, a fascinating venue.

Not content, Holon decided to mimic Bilbao, and create a “city of design” that would attract tourists from overseas and, hopefully, big name architects, artists and engineers who would participate in the process.
Ron Arad‘s award-winning Design Museum Holon is the result.

In wrapping five bands of rust-colored Cor-Ten steel around the building, Arad, one of Israel’s most well known architects and industrial designers, provides both a stunning visual image from afar, just as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim did in Bilbao.

The steel ribbons complement an external sculptural ramp that leads visitors into the galleries, and two-story courtyard.  Inside, a small, glass-enclosed café is located at the entrance, sheltered from sun and rain by the waving weathered steel.

The focus on industrial design, such as a recent exhibition on how digital technology can create fabulous interactive exhibits, has drawn thousands of visitors each week to Holon.

A permanent collection features the work of Israeli designers.

Photo courtesy of Design Museum Holon

As the museum matures, so has the city around it. A new civic square, for instance, is planned and will include a new city hall, concert hall, and other mixed-use buildings arrayed around a central plaza.

In October, 2011, the city and the museum organized Holon Fashion Week, which drew fashion industry celebrities.

This April, during Holon’s Design Week, the city will host an international team of 13 directors of design week festivals in Europe and Asia, for an exhibition at the Museum.

Another exhibit, Plus Ten, will display the work of 40 young Israeli designers, in the fields of textile design, jewelry design, visual communications, and digital design ten years after their graduation from Israeli design schools.

The city will bring several Design Week activities to the more industrialized parts of Holon, too, offering still more evidence that it’s truly on its way to becoming a city of design.