Erich Mendelsohn

Photograph: Erich Mendelsohn
The architect Erich Mendelsohn, circa 1928
National Library of Israel, Schwadron collection / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Erich Mendelsohn

Man schließt uns aus vom Gnadentisch, von der Menschenwürde, von der Menschlichkeit. Also muß man sich freimachen und diesem Kreis den Rücken kehren.

[They have excluded us from the Lord’s table, from human dignity, from humanity. So we must set ourselves free and turn our backs on these people. (ed. trans.)]

Erich Mendelsohn to his wife Luise, 3 February 1933

Bornon 21 March 1887 in Allenstein (East Prussia), today Poland
Diedon 15 September 1953 in San Francisco, United States of America (USA)
ExileGreat Britain (United Kingdom), Palestine, United States of America

After some detours, Erich Mendelsohn eventually pursued his own career path despite the wishes of his parents. In 1912 he finished his studies in architecture in Munich. After the outbreak of the First World War he moved to Berlin and a year later he married Luise Maas. They had been friends since 1910. Mendelsohn was initially not admitted to the armed forces due to eyesight problems but from 1917 he served on both the eastern and western fronts.

After the war he founded an architectural office in Berlin. One of his first commissions was the design of an observatory used to test Einstein's theory of relativity. The expressionist “Einstein Tower” made Mendelsohn famous overnight. In the following years he received major commissions at home and abroad and lecture tours took him all over the world. His family decided to leave Germany two months after the Nazis came to power. After working in Holland and France, the Mendelsohns moved to London. In 1938, they received British citizenship, which allowed them to issue guarantees and thus bring family members to England.

From 1934 Mendelsohn led another architectural firm in Palestine, where he oversaw numerous construction projects. In 1939 he and his wife moved to Jerusalem until the course of the war in North Africa again forced them to flee. From 1941 their third country of exile was the United States, where they were supported until the end of the war by friends and colleagues. In 1945 Mendelsohn founded a new office in San Francisco. He died in 1953 from cancer.

Selected buildings:
Einsteinturm (Observatory), Potsdam (1920–1921)
Schocken department store, Chemnitz (1927–1930)
Columbushaus, Berlin (1931-1932)
Villa and library Salman Schocken, Jerusalem (1934–1936)
Hadassah university clinic, Jerusalem (1934–1939)
Maimonides Hospital, San Francisco (1946–1950)
Park Synagogue, Cleveland (1946–1953)

Further reading:
Heinze-Greenberg, Ita, Stephan, Regina (Hg.): Erich Mendelsohn. Gedankenwelten. Unbekannte Texte zur Architektur, Kulturgeschichte und Politik. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz 2000
Ita Heinze-Greenberg: Erich Mendelsohn. „Bauen ist Glückseligkeit“. Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich 2011
Mendelsohn, Erich : Mensch und Form. Aus dem Nachlass des Architekten Erich Mendelsohn. Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich 2011
Stephan, Regina (Hg.): Erich Mendelsohns Bauten heute. Architekturführer zu seinen Bauten in Deutschland, Polen, Russland, Norwegen, Großbritannien, Israel und in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, erarbeitet von Studierenden am Fachgebiet Geschichte und Theorie der Architektur der Technischen Universität Darmstadt. Darmstadt, Berlin: Akademie der Künste 2004
Veröffentlichung des Erich Mendelsohn Archivs: Der Briefwechsel von Erich und Luise Mendelsohn 1910-1953: