No. 35 . 24 January 2001 
ArchitectureWeek
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Erich Mendelsohn - Oriental from East Prussia

by Lili Eylon

He could easily have been forgotten: he founded no school, there was no institutionalized follow-up to his ideas, and his achievements have been too often ignored.

His buildings, created by in Germany, Poland, Russia, Norway, Great Britain, Israel, and the United States were very influential in their day. But only recently has the importance of Erich Mendelsohn been acknowledged once more.

Mendelsohn was a master of place and identity. And yet, the man who left an architectural legacy in seven countries and possessed three citizenships, spent his life in perpetual, self-imposed exile.

He said: "A man of genius must constantly renew himself, otherwise he is ossified." This principle which he applied to his architecture guided his life as well. The architect who designed charming houses lived most of his life in rented apartments.

His life was full of adversity: the Nazis forced him to abandon his native Germany; World War II and the subsequent lack of work caused him to leave Palestine, which was on the verge of becoming Israel.

He may have belonged nowhere, but in each place to which fate drove him, he knew how to adapt and exhibit great personal and professional resilience.

Erich Mendelsohn was born in Allenstein, East Prussia in 1887. From 1910 to 1912 he studied under Theodor Fischer at the Technische Hochschule. Five years later he was driving a Red Cross ambulance for the German army on the Russian front.

 

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