Eric Mendelsohn

American, born Germany

1887, Allenstein, Germany [now Olsztyn, Poland]
1953, San Francisco, California


Eric Mendelsohn, a German Jewish architect, is considered the main proponent of Expressionism, a movement that developed during the early 1920s among the German, Dutch, Austrian, Czech, and Danish avant-garde. The Expressionists emphasized freedom from historical precedents; they merged romantic symbolism with newer, more malleable building technologies — such as reinforced concrete and glass — to create vigorous, often whimsical structures.

Mendelsohn studied economics before beginning his architectural training at universities in Berlin and Munich. In 1915 he married Luise Maas, who introduced him to Herbert Freundlich, his client for the Einstein Tower in Potsdam.

The most prolific time in Mendelsohn's career coincided with the rise of the Weimar Republic (1919-33), the German political regime that preceded Adolf Hitler's rise to power and was an attempt to establish a liberal democracy. During this period, which was marked by mass consumerism, Mendelsohn designed two of his most famous works: the Schocken Department Store in Stuttgart and the Red Flag Textile Factory in St. Petersburg.

In 1933, sensing the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany, Mendelsohn relocated to England, where he struggled to find work. He then emigrated to the United States in 1941, and eventually opened his own architectural practice in San Francisco. He designed a handful of buildings there, including the Maimonides Hospital.

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