David Azrieli: Builder of Dreams

Major Tel Aviv University benefactor single-handedly creates Israel's leading architecture school
27 November 2012
David Azrieli

From pioneering Israel's shopping malls to constructing the nation's tallest commercial towers, TAU benefactor David J. Azrieli has left an indelible mark on Israel's urban landscape and gained worldwide recognition as an innovative entrepreneur, architect and designer. Some twenty years ago, Azrieli's vision extended beyond his building enterprise toward creating a world-class school of architecture in Tel Aviv, at the heart of Israel's commercial center. We are privileged to say that he chose to do so at our very own Tel Aviv University.  


Today, the Azrieli School of Architecture is an exciting, thriving center of excellence that has an international reputation. It is high in demand by students and employers across Israel. Study programs train students and  expose them to the most advanced design theories and to interdisciplinary themes in environmental studies and digital art. Thanks to the Azrieli Foundation, the school hosts a distinguished lecture series, purchases state-of-the-art equipment for its labs, and holds major conferences.


When the School needed space to launch a master's program in architecture, Azrieli stepped in, and personally designed  two  floors for the new wing of the School of Architecture.


The Azrieli Foundation's support of excellence at TAU also comes in the form of the Abba Eban Doctoral Scholarship for Diplomacy and Law and the prestigious  Israel-wide Azrieli Fellows Program, which awards annual fellowships to a number of TAU's most outstanding master's and doctoral students in the fields of Interdisciplinary & Applied Sciences (PhD), Education (PhD) and Architecture & Urban Planning (master's).


Overcoming Adversity

David J. Azrieli’s life is an inspiring account of triumph over tragedy. A man of indefatigable energy, creativity and intellectual acuity, his story is also one of philanthropic vision and commitment to the Jewish people.


Born in Poland in 1922, David Azrieli lost his parents, younger brother and sister in the Shoah. In 1939, at the age of 17, he fled Poland and made his way through Russia and Central Asia, always one step ahead of the Nazis. He arrived in Palestine at the end of 1942 where he worked to support his studies in architecture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. His studies were cut short when in 1948, he joined the IDF and fought in Israel’s War of Independence. After the war, David traveled and lived in South Africa, England and the United States, before settling in Canada in 1954.


Azrieli's entry into real estate was humble, beginning with the construction of four houses in a Montreal suburb. Today, his architectural vision can be seen in the office towers, high-rise residences, and shopping centers in Canada, the United States and Israel. In 1998, Azrieli completed the first phase of the Azrieli Center, including the Round and Triangle Towers and the Shopping Mall which quickly became the most innovative office and shopping complex in Israel. In 2008, Azrieli completed the Square tower and dramatically redefined the Tel Aviv skyline!


Azrieli completed his BA degree from the Thomas More Institute of the University of Montreal in Canada. A lifelong learner, Azrieli returned to school and in 1997 completed a Masters of Architecture at Carleton University in Ottawa. Today he is a member of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the Israel Association of United Architects.


Over the years, Azrieli’s philanthropy and contributions to society have been recognized. In 1984, Azrieli was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor. In 1999, he was named “chevalier” of the Ordre National du Québec, the Province's highest civilian honor. In addition, he is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees.



On the Fringe


One of eight TAU students currently receiving Azrieli Fellowships, TAU architecture graduate Efrat Vertes, is examining the impact of marginal areas in Tel Aviv on the city's urban culture and planning. Vertes, a master's candidate in architecture, hopes to identify the causes of the changes that have occurred in the past 20 years in central and southern Tel Aviv, and to describe how the absence of planning and supervision in marginal areas actually encourages the creation of fringe culture.




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