The Jewish German architect Erich Mendelsohn was a notable example of Architectural Expressionism . He was a leading pioneer of modern architecture and Art Deco.
About his life
Erich Mendelsohn was born in Allenstein, East Prussia, on March 21, 1887. He received his architectural training in Berlin and Munich, and he set up in private practice in Munich at the age of 25. In Munich he was friendly with leaders of the German expressionist movement in painting. Following military service in World War I, Mendelsohn returned to his practice and prepared an exhibition of his architectural sketches. The rise of Nazism in Germany and its accompanying religious persecution forced Mendelsohn to flee in March 1933. Mendelsohn emigrated to the United States in 1941, but did not practice until after the war. He died on September 15, 1953 in San Francisco, California, U.S.
What were his major works?
After WWI, his first commision was the Einstein Tower, Potsdam (1919–21), which is a bizarre, highly sculptured structure. The Hat Factory of Steinberg, Hermann & Co. which he designed at Luckenwalde (1920–23) also had a striking appearance, and it was entirely functional as well. He designed the Mossehaus (1921–1923) in Berlin, an office building renovated and with a new corner. During the 1920s Mendelsohn designed a number of structures that were particularly notable for their prominent and imaginative use of glass in strongly horizontal compositions; outstanding were the Schocken stores at Stuttgart (1927) and Chemnitz (1928).
After he left Germany, his most important works were the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (with Serge Chermayeff, 1933) in England, which had a glass-enclosed, semicircular stairway tower. He did the hospitals at Haifa (1937) and Jerusalem (1938) in Palestine, and the Maimonides Hospital (1946) in San Francisco.
How can we identify Mendelsohn’s style?
His architecture was lyrical, rhythmic, and vastly emotional. He sought not to rationalize the world but to express its dynamism. He had the ability to take the intense power of Expressionism and meld it into graceful architectural form. Mendelsohn’s blending of International Style, Art Deco and the Streamline Moderne have influenced architects around the world, earning him a place among the elite of modernist architects.