Overview

Erich Mendelsohn

(1887—1953) architect


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(1887–1953).

German-born naturalized American architect. He started as an Expressionist, producing many images of structures with streamlined curves while serving in the German Imperial Army (1914–18). His Einstein Tower, Potsdam (1919–24), resembles aspects of the early typological sketches: built of brick and block and rendered, it had the appearance of being made of reinforced concrete, and is popularly believed to be so constructed. The plan owed much to South-German Baroque staircase designs of C18. Expressionist, too, was the Steinberg-Hermann Hat Factory, Luckenwalde (1921–3), with its jagged, angular forms, but curved walls were also used in some of his other buildings, notably the WOGA Complex with Universum Cinema, Berlin (1925–8), and the Schocken Department Stores at Stuttgart (1926) and Chemnitz (1928–9). The cinema was the precedent for many such buildings in Europe and America in the 1930s, while the long strips of horizontal windows at the stores made a considerable impact.

International Modernism impinged more and more on Mendelsohn's work, and in 1933 he settled in England where he joined Chermayeff, designing the celebrated de la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex (1933–5), which has bands of windows and a streamlined curved glass enclosure for the staircase derived from the Schocken Store, Stuttgart. With Chermayeff he also designed Shrub's Wood, Chalfont St Giles, Bucks. (1934–5), and 64 Old Church Street, Chelsea, London (1936—unfor-tunately altered in the 1990s), both important Modernist houses. In the late 1930s he moved to Palestine, where he designed buildings for the Hebrew University, Jerusalem (1937–9), and in 1941 emigrated to the USA, where his work lacked the power of his German designs. The Russell House, Pacific Heights, San Francisco (1950–1), was probably his best work in America.

Aschenbach (ed.) (1987);Eckardt (1960);Evenden (ed.) (1994);Hitchcock (1977);K. James (1997);Pehnt (1973);Stephan (ed.) (1999);Whittick (1956);Zevi (1985, 1999)

Subjects: Art — Architecture.



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