Emigre Modernist architect Erich Mendelsohn's De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

De La Warr Pavilion

By Greyscape
10th July 2017

This is the beautiful Erich Mendelssohn and Serge Chermayeff 1935 De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex. Prussian born Mendelssohn 1887-1953, studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and in Munich. After WW1 he established what was to become a successful, well known architectural practice designing a number of important buildings. This included ‘Einstein Tower’ Einsteinturm, completed in 1921 in Potsdam (a young Richard Neutra was a member of Mendelssohn’s team working on this project).  Known for his creativity, bold design and love of curves and lines, his work is recognised as embodying the spirit of the Weimar Republic. He was at this time building both in Germany and Russia. In 1924 he founded Der Ring with Mies Van Der Rohe and Walter Gropius. In 1933 he fled the country with his wife in the face of antisemitic racist laws, leaving behind an important architectural legacy. At this time the man who had build the largest architectural practice in Germany was struck off the national register of German Architects.

He continued his practice in London until 1936 taking up British Citizenship, designing buildings in England including De La Warr Pavilion and began working for Chaim Weitzmann creating a series of buildings in Palestine during the British Mandate, including the Hebrew University, the Weizmann Institute and Weizmann’s modernist family home. In 1935 he opened a Jerusalem office. He remained an important influencer and developer with an incredible output, his establishing of International Style in the Middle East with others can be found in his famed Jerusalem, Rehovot and Haifa buildings.

Just before WW2 broke out Erich moved to California to teach at Berkeley. His first American commission was B’nai Amoona, a Synagogue in St Louis Missouri. He also assisted the US Government with his understanding of German housing estates by building a mock village in the Nevada desert for bomber target practice.

Postwar he remained a respected prolific designer until his death in 1953 in San Francisco.

Serge Chermayeff was born in Grozny, Russia which is now Chechen in 1900. He became a British Citizen in 1928 and died in Massachusetts in 1966. Friend of Henry Moore, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, he became one of the country’s most celebrated modern architects. His impact on modernism is immense and best understood in terms of  The Chermayeff Century’.

Photo Credits: howard morris

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