Mendelsohn, Erich (1887–1953) By Kiessel, Marko
Erich Mendelsohn was born on March 21, 1887, in Allenstein, East Prussia. He gained his architectural education at the technical universities in Charlottenburg and Munich in 1908–1912. Immediately after WWI he established his office in Berlin. Like other German avant-garde architects in the revolutionary atmosphere after the war he was affiliated to the Arbeitsrat für Kunst [Work Council for Art] in 1919. In 1925 he became a member of the architectural organization Der Ring [The Ring] which promoted Neues Bauen [New Building]. The 1920s were probably the most successful period for Mendelsohn and his crowded office. Shortly afterwards the changed political situation led to a brief period of exile for the Jewish Mendelsohn in Amsterdam after which he established a new office in London in 1933. The opening of a second office in Jerusalem followed in 1935, before he moved again to Palestine in 1939. From 1941 he spent the later part of his career in the United States until his death on September 15, 1953, in San Francisco.
Mendelsohn, who was inspired by Henry van de Velde, Joseph Maria Olbrich, and Frank Lloyd Wright, began his career with the expressionist, organically shaped Einstein Tower in Potsdam (1919–1922), a research observatory and at the same time a dynamic symbol of Albert Einstein’s theories on energy and matter. It won him many private engagements, making him one of the most successful modern architects of the 1920s with numerous commissions in Germany and one in Leningrad (Red Flag Textile Factory 1925), despite not being mentioned in Sigfried Giedion’s influential Space, Time and Architecture (1941).