The cofounders of R2M—the city’s largest, cutting-edge hospitality group—are giving new life to Israel’s neglected landmarks.
A wrought-iron elevator shaft climbs from beneath the surface of the earth and soars up towards the sky, the remnants of a freight car long since forgotten sitting idle at its base. Violet flowers and green vines snake up and through the rusted limbs of the skeletal structure, breathing life back into the first elevator installed in Israel. “Tel Aviv is filled with derelict buildings that have been abandoned and are not usable anymore. Herzl16 represents the reusable potential of a true architectural beauty,” says Mati Broudo, cofounder of R2M, Tel Aviv’s largest and fastest-growing high-end hospitality and restaurant group. Herzl16, an address as well as a locale, was once Pensak Passage, built in 1925 as the first commercial mall in Tel Aviv, offering wholesale merchandise and housing the wares of local craftsmen. Shiri Arad, R2M’s in-house architect, brushes her hand against the steps of the building’s original staircase as she reveals that during the 1920s, seashells taken from Tel Aviv’s famous beaches were used as building materials.
“After many years, Herzl16 is close to its original conception,” says Broudo, referencing the designers, architects, and creatives who have made the upper floors of Herzl16 into their office spaces. Herzl16, which took approximately a year and a half to preserve, is an Eclectic architectural-style edifice that leads into an open internal courtyard reminiscent of the riads of Morocco. It’s now home to a music venue, bar, a cultural space, and two restaurants, one a casual indoor-outdoor café and the second, Disco Tokyo, a reinterpreted Japanese restaurant offering patrons exquisite cuisine in an informal atmosphere. With a maximum seating capacity of 50, Disco Tokyo features an open-kitchen ambiance, its minimalist interior pairing clean metal tables with handmade Carl Hansenwooden chairs. “The lack of design is the design,” says Broudo, as his eyes scan the original pillars of the building that rest against exposed brick walls.
Herzl16’s industrial-style indoor-outdoor space of concrete and muted palettes, accented by plush leather chairs, is the newest place to be and be seen in Tel Aviv, whether you are nibbling at a matcha muffin accompanied by freshly squeezed orange juice at noon or brushing shoulders with musicians, artists, and international creatives to the sound of homegrown DJs mixing beats.
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