Erich Mendelsohn’s applied visions on display in Greece

Erich Mendelsohn’s architectural work is being presented in detail in Greece for the first time. The exhibition «Erich Mendelsohn – Dynamics and Functionalism: Applied Visions of an International Architect» opened recently at the Mediterranean Center for Architecture in Hania, on the island of Crete. Mendelsohn (1887-1953), who was of Jewish descent and a European background, was a pioneer of 1920s and ’30s architecture. He was a man of vision who worked hard for 20th century functionalism, was receptive to New World dynamism and simultaneously modest toward the ancient wisdom of the Mediterranean. The exhibition, set up by art historian Regina Stephan, is an attempt to look at the architect’s work from the point of view of research. An even deeper examination of his work will take place at the discussion meeting to be held on May 3 in Hania with the participation of architects Giorgos Lavvas, Panayiotis Tournikiotis and Dimitris Andonakakis, and art historian Dr Ita Heinze-Greenberg. One of the main representatives of modernism in the 1920s and ’30s, Mendelsohn constructed numerous buildings in Germany using the then-new materials of concrete and steel. In old photographs (many of his buildings have been destroyed and one has to rely on photographs), one can see the factory of Luckenwalde (1923), which is highly reminiscent of his first work or the Einstein prophetic tower in Postdam in 1919, which is exceptional because of its multicornered roofs. Mendelsohn’s designs for the Schocken department stores in Stuttgart (1926) and Chemnitz (1928) mark Germany’s bourgeois progressive outlook at a critical time, and the same applies to Berlin, where he built the Columushaus in 1929-30. Mendelsohn was a Berlin architect, but his professional activity extended to the USA and Great Britain. In 1941, he moved to the States. Mendelsohn, who gracefully moved from expressionism to 1920s modernism, has left numerous texts and thoughts to facilitate communication about his work for some time to come. The exhibition and the discussion are organized by the Mediterranean Center for Architecture, the Goethe Institute in Athens and the Institute for Foreign Affairs in Stuttgart and Berlin.