An Israeli Architect on His Country’s Real Estate Boom, City Life, and Changes Brought on by Covid

Jaffa, Israel-based architect Ilan Pivko founded Pivko Architects in 1981, and has since worked on residential towers, hotels, public buildings, offices, private homes, urban planning and mixed-use complexes—spanning interior design, architecture and product design.

It’s now one of Israel’s leading architecture firms, and their work has been featured in an exhibition at the Israel Museum and in an hour-long documentary from ARTE in France.

Mr. Pivko’s latest project is Port Tel Aviv, an ultra-luxury building on the historic Tel Aviv port that will feature 40 apartments, along with a five-star hotel, which will be delivered at the end of 2022.

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Located less than 200 feet from the Mediterranean seafront, the Cubist-inspired, 10-story property features apartments with one- to four-bedroom layouts, two mini-penthouses with private pools, and two five-bedroom penthouses with private rooftop decks and swimming pools. Prices start at just over US$2 million. (Note: Property prices in Israel are usually listed in U.S. dollars, rather than shekels.)

Each floor of Port Tel Aviv features wrap-around recessed private terraces with mosaic-like facades that offer “brise soleil” protection, reducing heat by reflecting sunlight. Living spaces are being designed to maximize the Mediterranean light with open interiors, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling views.

We caught up with Mr. Pivko, 73, to discuss the growing trend of working from home, a desire to pay homage to Israel’s classic buildings, and more.

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Mansion Global: What has business been like since Covid-19?

Ilan Pivko: Surprisingly, we’re not seeing a slowdown. Architecture, construction and building are huge projects and you can’t just stop them.

The need for homes is so great in Israel and that hasn’t changed. The need is there. There may be less need for office buildings, but homes are still very much in demand.

It was a long time coming to see this shift to work from home, but Covid brought that to fruition.

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MG: Will this work-from-home atmosphere convince people to leave the cities in Israel?

IP: Yes, definitely. The technology is there. It’s the way things have been going, but it’s not so easy to change habits.

MG: Do you expect buyer tastes to change significantly as a result of Covid-19?

IP: The needs haven’t changed fundamentally. Maybe people want more office space in the home that’s not just a desk or a small corner. Homes will be more of a pleasure to work in, but the truth is that you don’t really need to do it in your house. You can do it on the beach, you can go to any country. It will open things up, I’m sure, and open up our horizons. It will be fun.

MG: How has the Israeli real estate market changed in the last 10 years or so?

IP: The last 10 years were crazy in Israel, not only in Israel, but especially. We didn’t suffer in 2008 the way other countries did. It’s harder to get mortgages here so we didn’t suffer from the mortgage crisis. That was the beginning of a big boom.

Our birth rate is the highest in the Western world. We have 3.2 kids per couple. Those kids grow and they need houses and apartments to live in. Israel is a place where people buy. They don’t rent much. The aim and ambition is to buy. So demand is much bigger than the supply. We produce around 35,000 new homes a year, and we need at least 55,000 to 60,000, maybe more. That makes the real estate market very strong.

Now we also have a lot of Jewish people from all over the world wanting to have a pied a terre in Israel, so the market is good.

But investing in Israel is not as easy as it used to be.

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MG: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your design of Port Tel Aviv.

IP: It’s really great for someone who wants it as a vacation home in Tel Aviv. You have the port and the main streets of Tel Aviv very close. You can go to the beach easily.

It’s all transparent, with beautiful views of the sea from all sides of the building. Two floors are a hotel, so you have all those services, which is great for people coming from abroad.

Since it’s a project on the beach, I wanted to give it a light feeling. But you need to have shade, too. So I created shutters that are embroidered and very transparent, so you can open and close them easily and don’t have the sun in your face. Every apartment has a shaded, private terrace. Three apartments will have their own swimming pool.

We embraced the white cube, which was symbolic architecture, because it was popular during the creation of the country. This is a remake of the white cube, and it’s more translucent and transparent. There are no walls; everything’s glass. The embroidery is like lace. Everything is very light and transparent.

It’s in the heart of life in Tel Aviv, too. It’s a building for people that like the city and want to be in it.

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MG: What does luxury mean to you?

IP: First of all, of course, it’s location. It also has to be anchoring, and empowering. You’re open to the sea and the sun and you have a feeling of being pampered. You come in and you feel like a king or queen in your palace. You have the view, a great bathroom—everything that makes you happy.

MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?

IP: My house is on the water in Jaffa, and to sit on the terrace about 15 meters from the water is beautiful.

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