Monday, March 23, 2009

Eric Mendelsohn

At the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary art, I bought a book about Eric Mendelsohn (1887-1953), a German-Jewish architect with a distinctive and innovative style. Though the book claims that Mendelsohn is neglected, lists quite a number of books about him and his work. This one is inexpensive (it's the kind of book you impulse buy in museum gift shops). It has interesting pictures, though the text is not brilliant. The cover shows the Einstein Tower, built in 1918-1924.

Mendelsohn was a leader in the Modernist school, which included Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. His early works were designed and built in Germany, but he also designed pre-war buildings in Jerusalem and for the Weizmann House and the campus of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovoth, Israel. After 1940, he designed several synagogues and other buildings in the US, including a synagogue very close to where I grew up in University City, MO. When I was young, I knew the building was unusual, but I don't think anyone was aware of the fame of its architect.

A few years ago, we lived on the Weizmann campus, and I visited the house and the other buildings there, which were restored in around 2000. It was at that time that I became aware of Mendelsohn's history and work. Last December, we walked around the area of University City where his building still stands. No longer used as a synagogue, the building now houses a performance arts school.

The following are my photos of these buildings, the first two on the Weizmann campus, the second two of the synagogue.

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