weizmann house designed by erich mendelsohn spiral staircase

Erich Mendelsohn

Erich Mendelsohn (1887-1953) born in Allenstein, East Prussia (now Olsztyn, Poland) into a modestly comfortable Jewish family (his father was a shopkeeper his mother a milliner)  studied architecture at the Technical University in Berlin and Munich, completing his studies in 1912. He formed friendships with expressionists Paul Klee, Kandinsky and Franz Marc. During WW1 served on the Western and Russian fronts as an engineer.

Returning to Germany, he became a founder member of Der Ring.  He established a highly successful architectural practice which was the world’s busiest modernist practice.  His clients included publisher and German retail magnet Salamon Schoken, for whom he had designed three department stores with beautiful features such as sweeping staircases, a signature familiar to fans of De La Warr Pavillion and the interior of the Weizmann House. In 1921 he designed Einstein Tower (Eisentaurm) in Potsdam. Some of his other buildings included: the Hat Factory in Luckenwalde, Mossehaus in Berlin, Petersdorff Department Store in Wroclaw, Schocken Department store in Nurenberg, the Red Banner Factory in Russia, and Schocken Department store in Stuttgart.

In 1933 he left Nazi German due to the harsh racist laws, leaving his company behind him and sought refuge in England. He formed a partnership with Serge Chermayeff and together they won the competition to design and build De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea, England. He took British citizenship and designed three other buildings in the UK including Cohen House in West London.

He accepted a commission from Salman Schocken, who had also left Germany, to build a library for him in Jerusalem to house his renowned book collection and to build a family home.

Chaim Weizmann, later the first President of Israel commissioned Mendelsohn to build a substantial family home in Rehovot, his first commission in British Mandate Palestine.

side view of weizmann house

Weizmann House Image Mikaela Burstow

In 1936 he opened an office in Jerusalem building a series of important buildings including the Anglo Palestine Bank, Hadassah Hospital, labs at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In spring 1941 he moved to the US to help with the war effort and to teach at University of Califonia, Berkeley. He died in 1953

He died in San Francisco in 1953



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