See studies by A. Whittick (2d ed. 1956), W. von Eckardt (1960), and B. Zevi (1985).
(born March 21, 1887, Allenstein, Ger.—died Sept. 15, 1953, San Francisco, Calif., U.S.) German architect. While studying architecture in Munich, he was influenced by the Blaue Reiter group of Expressionist artists. Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower, Potsdam (1919–21), a highly sculptural structure, reflects his early preoccupation with science fiction. In the 1920s he designed a number of imaginative structures, including the Schocken stores in Stuttgart (1927) and Chemnitz (1928), notable for their prominent use of glass in strongly horizontal compositions. He fled the Nazis in 1933 and eventually settled in the U.S.; his American works include the Maimonides Hospital, San Francisco (1946).
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Erich Mendelsohn (21 March 1887 – 15 September 1953) was a German Jewish architect, known for his expressionist architecture in the 1920s, as well as for developing a dynamic functionalism in his projects for department stores and cinemas.
In 1906 he took up a study of national economics at the University of Munich. In 1908 he began studying architecture at the Technical University of Berlin; two years later he transferred to the Technical University of Munich, where in 1912 he graduated cum laude. In Munich he was influenced by Theodor Fischer, an architect whose own work fell between neo-classical and Jugendstil, and who had been teaching there since 1907; Mendelsohn also made contact with members of Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke, two groups of expressionist artists.
From 1912 to 1914 he worked as an independent architect in Munich. In 1915 he married cellist Luise Maas. Through her, he met the cello-playing astrophysicist Erwin Finlay Freundlich. Freundlich was the brother of Herbert Freundlich, the deputy director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut für Physikalische Chemie und Elektrochemie (now the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in the Dahlem district of Berlin. Freundlich wished to build an astronomical observatory suitable to experimentally confirm Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Through his relationship with Freundlich, Mendelsohn had the opportunity to design and build the Einsteinturm ("Einstein Tower"). This relationship and also the family friendship with the Luckenwalde hat manufacturers Salomon and Gustav Herrmann helped Mendelsohn to an early success.
From then until 1918, what is known of Mendelsohn is, above all, a multiplicity of sketches of factories and other large buildings, often small format or in letters from the front to his wife.
His practice grew. In its best years, it employed as many as forty people, among them, as a trainee, Julius Posener, later a famous architectural historian. Mendelsohn's work encapsulated the consumerism of the Weimar Republic, most particularly in his shops: most famously the Schocken Department Stores. Nonetheless he was also interested in the socialist experiments being made in the USSR, where he designed the red Flag Textile Factory in 1926 (together with the senior architect of this project, Претро, Ипполит Александрович). His Mossehaus newspaper offices and Universum cinema were also highly influential on art deco and Streamline Moderne.
During this time, Mendelsohn was successful both in his work and financially. In 1926, not even forty years old, he was able to buy himself an old villa. In 1928 planning began for his Rupenhorn house, nearly 4000 m², which the family occupied two years later. With an expensive publication about his generously proportioned new home, adorned with the work of Amédée Ozenfant among others, Mendelsohn became the subject of envy.
As a Jew, seeing the rise of antisemitic tendencies in Germany, he emigrated in the spring of 1933 to England. His not inconsiderable fortune was later seized by the Nazis, his name was struck from the list of the German Architects' Union, and he was excluded from the Prussian Academy of Arts.
In England he began a business partnership with Serge Chermayeff, which continued until the end of 1936. Mendelsohn had long known Chaim Weizmann, later President of Israel. At the start of 1934 he began planning a series of projects on Weizmann's behalf in Palestine and in 1935 opened a bureau in Jerusalem. In 1938, having already dissolved his London office, he took UK citizenship and changed his forename to "Eric".
From 1941 until his death Mendelsohn lived in the United States and taught at Berkeley University. Until the end of World War II his activities were limited by his immigration status to lectures and publications. He also served as an advisor to the U.S. government. For instance, in 1943 he collaborated with the U.S. Army and the Standard Oil in order to build replicas of typical German working class housing estates, which would be of key importance in acquiring the know-how and experience necessary to carry out the firebombings on Berlin. In 1945 he established himself in San Francisco. From then until his death in 1953 he undertook various projects, mostly for Jewish communities.