Erich Mendelsohn - Symposium

21 and 22 March 2022
Positioning: Erich Mendelsohn and the Built Heritage of the 20th Century.
Chamber of Architects Berlin/Architektenkammer Berlin.

With thanks for the generous financial support by Wüstenrot-Stiftung:

Background und purpose

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary year of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention as well as of Erich Mendelsohn’s 135th birthday the “Erich Mendelsohn Initiative Circle” through ICOMOS Israel, ICOMOS Germany and in cooperation with a number of partners organize an international symposium on 21 and 22 March 2022. The aim is to identify the potential Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Erich Mendelsohn’s work for a UNESCO World Heritage transnational serial nomination. For this purpose, experts will open new perspectives on Mendelsohn’s life, his architecture and influence, and will consult on strategies for the nomination process. The symposium is particularly interested in exploring Mendelsohn’s cosmopolitan approach to modernity and seeks reflections on his global impact, as well as on the theoretical positions and technical innovations in which it was rooted.

Hybrid Event

The event will take place in presence as well as online. Participants need to register in any case (see link above). Seats are granted in the order of the registrations received.
  • Max. attendees in person: 70
  • Max. attendees online: 280
Conference language is English. The symposium’s proceedings will be published in due course
→ Review of the symposium by U. Meyer of March 23, 2022
→ Recordings of the symposium on the ICOMOS Germany Youtube Channel


Architektenkammer Berlin/Chamber of Architects Berlin, Alte Jakobstraße 149, 10969 Berlin

T: (030) 29 33 07-0

How to get there by public transport (BVG):
  • Subway/Metro station: U-Bahnhof Hallesches Tor (lines U1 and U6)
  • Bus station: Zossener Brücke and U-Hallesches Tor (bus lines M41 und 248)

Chamber of Architects/Architektenkammer | © Klemens Renner


The two-day symposium will take place in the former Metalworker´s Union building in Berlin (IG-Metall-Haus), built by Erich Mendelsohn between 1928 and 1930.  

In the evening of the architect’s 135th birthday on 21 March the cinema Klick Kino (some 30 minutes away by public transport) will screen the documentary film Mendelsohn’s Incessant Vision  (2011). The screening will be followed by a discussion in presence of the Israeli film Director Duki Dror and moderated by Ayhan Ayrilmaz, vice-president of the Chamber of Architects. 
Chamber of Architects/Architektenkammer | © Klemens Renner

09:00 – 10:00

Opening: Welcome and Greetings by Hosts, Organisers, Supporters

Moderation: Jörg Haspel, (ICOMOS Germany, Erich Mendelsohn Initiative Circle)


  • Theresa Keilhacker, Chamber of Architects Berlin, President
  • Tino Mager, ICOMOS Germany, President
  • Eran Mordohovich, ICOMOS Israel, President


  • Roman Luckscheiter, German National Commission for UNESCO (DUK), Secretary General (online)
  • Dalit Atrakchi, Israeli National Commission for UNESCO, Secretary General
  • Mary Miller, Getty Research Institute Los Angeles, director (online)

Introductory Remarks of the Erich Mendelsohn Initiative Circle

Regina Stephan, Erich Mendelsohn Initiative Circle, ICOMOS Germany

10:00 - 12:00

Session 1: World Heritage

Session Chair: Katarzyna Piotrowska, Poland (World Heritage Expert)

Transnational Nominations:
Mapping of Attributes and Values conveying the OUV of the nominated Property

Birgitta Ringbeck, Germany, Federal Foreign Office, Ministerial Counsellor, Coordination of UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO Transnational Serial World Heritage Nominations – Rules, Advantages, Challenges

Bogusław Szmygin, Poland, ICOMOS International Scientific Committee (ISC) on Theory and Philosophy of Conservation and Restoration

The Mendelsohn System

Moritz Wullen, Germany, Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Eric and Louise Mendelsohn Papers, Germany and United States

Maristella Casciato, USA, Getty Research Institute Los Angeles

12:00 - 13:00

Lunch break

13:00 - 15:00

Session 2: The Impact of Spirituality on Mendelsohn´s Oeuvre

Session Chair: Tino Mager, Germany (President ICOMOS Germany)

Erich Mendelsohn's Jewish Cemetery Complex in Königsberg (Kaliningrad): Cemetery Buildings as a Contribution to the Development of Architecture with Jewish Connotations in the Weimar Republic

Ulrich Knufinke, Germany, Lower Saxony State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments/Technical University of Braunschweig (online)

Zionism in Practice: Erich Mendelsohn from Berlin to Jerusalem

Alona Nitzan Shiftan, Israel, Technion Haifa, Avie and Sarah Arenson Built Heritage Research Center

Spiritual Heritage - Mendelsohn's Late Synagogue Architecture in the US

Kathleen James-Chakraborty, Ireland/ USA, University College Dublin (online)

15:00 - 15:30

Coffee break

15:00 - 17:30

Session 3: Life and Work in Exile

Session Chair: Christoph Rauhut, Germany (State Conservator Berlin/ICOMOS Germany)

From Westend to Rehavia, Erich Mendelsohn’s Houses as Milestones of a Cosmopolitan Career

Jörg Stabenow, Germany, Philipps-University Marburg (online)

Exploring Erich Mendelsohn’s Oeuvre as a Narrative of Place and Diaspora

Eric Nay, Canada, OCAD University in Toronto

Erich Mendelsohn: Architecture and Exile

Ita Heinze-Greenberg, Germany, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Institute fort the History and Theory of Architecture (GTA):


Evening Event

Welcome: Ayhan Ayrilmaz, Germany (Vice President Chamber of Architects/ICOMOS Germany)

Movie night on the occasion of Mendelsohn's 135th birthday – screening of the documentary film “Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions” (Israel, 2011) followed by a discussion with its director Duki Dror

Location: Klick Kino, Windscheidstraße 19, 10627 Berlin

9:00 - 10:00

Morning Event

Guided tour of the former Metal Workers’ Union House (IG-Metall-Haus) by the Berlin Chamber of Architects and the Erich Mendelsohn Initiative Circle

10:00 - 12:00

Session 4: International Influence on and Through Mendelsohn ́s Work

Session Chair: Andrea Jütten, Germany (DOCOMOMO Germany)

Erich Mendelsohn and the Reception of Modernism in England, 1920-1933

Alan Powers, UK, University of Kent (online)


Patxi Eguiluz & Carlos Copertone, Spain, Architectural Critics, Curators and researchers

On the Global Impact of Erich Mendelsohn's Architecture. Sergio Larraín's Oberpaur Building in Santiago and Modern Architecture in Chile

Marco Silvestri, Germany, University of Paderborn

12:00 - 13:00

Lunch break

13:00 - 15:00

Session 5: Mendelsohn ́s Placement in Architectural History

Session Chair: Eran Mordohovic, Israel (President ICOMOS Israel/Technion Haifa)

Erich Mendelsohn: the Crisis of the Modern Movement and Historiographical Criticism

Anat Falbel, Brazil, European Architectural History Network

Bay Region Modern Meets Mendelsohn

Wim De Wit & Daniel Gregory, USA, Architectural Historians, Curator and Editor (online)

In the Shadow of Expressionism: Erich Mendelsohn’s Architecture in the 1950s and 1960s

Emily Pugh, USA, The Getty Research Institute

15:00 - 15:30

Coffee break

15:30 - 16:30

Closing: Panel Discussion

Moderation: Michael Worbs, UNESCO Ambassador (ret.) of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Marleen Meißner (German National Commission for UNESCO)
  • Birgitta Ringbeck (German Federal Foreign Office)
  • Eran Mordohovich (Technion Haifa / ICOMOS Israel)
  • Leo Schmidt (ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage)
  • Regina Stephan (ICOMOS Germany, Erich Mendelsohn Initiative Circle)

16:30 - 17:00

Recap, Outlook and Thanks

17:00 - 17:15


Sessions in Focus – Speakers and Abstracts

Chamber of Architects/Architektenkammer | © Klemens Renner

Session 1: World Heritage

Birgitta Ringbeck, Germany, Federal Foreign Office

Transnational Nominations: Mapping of Attributes and Values conveying the OUV of the nominated Property

The World Heritage Convention is a property-based convention, which means that the physical attributes of a property in particular have to express Outstanding Universal Value. Therefore, the principal challenge is identifying, mapping and protecting physical attributes that justify the selection of at least one of the justification criteria (i) – (x) as well as the conditions of authenticity. Except for authenticity, attributes have so far only been defined outside the Operational Guidelines in the questionnaire for the third cycle of periodic reporting, as follows:

“Attributes can be physical qualities or fabric, or the relationships between them. Attributes can also be processes impacting on physical qualities, such as natural or agricultural processes, social arrangements or cultural practices that have shaped distinctive landscapes…”. The mapping of attributes is a prerequisite for drafting a SOUV as the mission statement for the application process, elaborating a successful nomination dossier, including an internal comparative analysis in the case of a serial nomination and a mandatory external comparative analysis, managing a property through indicating what is needed to be maintained in order to sustain the Outstanding Universal Value, elaborating a management plan, conducting a Heritage Impact Assessment in order to effectively evaluate the impact of potential development on the Outstanding Universal Value.
Birgitta Ringbeck
graduated in History of Art, Archaeology and Ethnology in Münster, Rom und Bonn. She is Head of the World Heritage coordinating body in the Federal Foreign Office of Germany. She is also the cultural expert in the German Delegation to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee; a member of the World Heritage Committee; the Council of ICCROM; German Commission for UNESCO; German World Heritage Foundation, ICOMOS; ICOM. She lectures on World Heritage and World Heritage Management and has published on architecture history, monument conservation and the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.  
Bogusław Szmygin, Poland, ICOMOS ISC Theory and Philosophy of Conservation and Restoration

UNESCO Transnational Serial World Heritage Nominations – Rules, Advantages, Challenges

A “serial nomination” is an appropriate form to submit a proposal for a nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List at the current stage of this initiative. It duly considers the specificity of typological groups of heritage that are currently proposed for the List ranging from – modern heritage, vernacular architecture, industrial heritage, fortifications of the 20th century, etc. Such typological groups of heritage should be represented on the UNESCO List not by individual objects, but by collections of selected objects that fully represent the value of this phenomenon. Indeed, the architectural achievements of Erich Mendelsohn should be proposed for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a transnational serial nomination. This is the optimal form of inscription of his achievements given the variety and values of the objects he designed. The paper presents key aspects and recommendations regarding the development of transnational serial nominations, including:
  • rules and requirements related to the preparation of transnational serial nominations;
  • benefits associated with the preparation of transnational serial nominations;
  • challenges related to the preparation of transnational serial nominations.

Drawing conclusions from the ICOMOS report Sharing experience on Transnational Serial Nominations in Europe (2021), which he co-authored, Szmygin also refers to his own first-hand experience in the development of serial nominations. His insights may help to develop a transnational serial nomination honouring Erich Mendelsohn's achievements.
Moritz Wullen, Germany, Kunstbibliothek/Art Library, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The Mendelsohn System

The Art Library keeps important parts of the Mendelsohn estate. As an interdisciplinary research institute it holds one of the world largest museum libraries and comprehensive collections on the history of architecture, design, fashion, media and photography. A key topic is architecture as a communication system based on interlinked processes of different kinds: sketching, designing, planning, reflecting, debating, building and representing in visual and photographic media. In this context the Mendelsohn collection is of paradigmatic significance, since the holdings cover a wide spectrum of textual and visual communication in sketches, letters, lecture manuscripts, photographs, books, magazine articles, photographs and even architectural models. The lecture is about the strategies to work with this complexity and how these strategies can also contribute to the Mendelsohn Initiative.
Moritz Wullen
is the director of the Kunstbibliothek der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin (Art Library, National Museums Berlin) which is home to the Mendelsohn Estate since 1975. In co-operation with the Getty Research Institute, he and Regina Stephan created a single digital window on the extensive Mendelsohn papers held in Berlin und Los Angeles. The digital Erich Mendelsohn Archive (EMA) concentrates on the decade-long correspondence between Erich Mendelsohn and his wife Luise and presents 1,410 letters written by Erich and 1,328 letters from Luise in digitised form along with transcriptions and annotations. The project was made possible by funding from the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.

As the director of the Kunstbibliothek Moritz Wullen manages a network of manifold interdisciplinary research and digitization projects on the history of architecture, design, fashion, photography and media. He also heads the project “Leni Riefenstahl Estate”, which develops collaborative and post-colonial strategies to publish the bequest of Leni Riefenstahl and is kept in the Staatsbibliothek Berlin, the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek and the Art Library. Furthermore, he is curator of exhibitions with a focus on the history of arts, sciences an ideas, among them: Mythos Babylon (2008), The Arts of the Enlightenment (2012), The Piranesi Principle (2021).  
Maristella Casciato, USA, Getty Research Institute Los Angeles

Eric and Louise Mendelsohn papers, Germany and United States

My presentation aims to shed light on the genesis and evolution of the Erich and Luise Mendelsohn collections (plural!) held at the GRI. This corpus of documents grew through diverse purchases and donations in the course of approximately 30 years, from mid-1980s to 2018. In my talk I will follow the chronological progress of this growth, focusing on the role of the actors that contributed to the current holding of three Mendelsohn related sets of archival documents. The slides included in my ppt are exclusive reproductions of papers held in these archives.
Maristella Casciato
is an architect and architectural historian. She is a Senior Curator and Head of Architecture Special Collections at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (2016-to present). She has been responsible for major acquisitions, such as the Frank Gehry Papers, 1954-1988, Lebbeus Woods’ drawings for “A-City”, and Erich Mendelsohn’s Projects of the American Years. Previously, she was a professor for Architecture at the University of Bologna, Italy. She was granted a Mellon Senior fellowship (2010), a research grant at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris (2004), and a Fulbright fellowship (1992). She taught history of architecture in many academic programs in the United States, and lectured extensively in Europe and beyond.

She has curated exhibitions at the Getty Research Institute, including Bauhaus Beginnings (2019), and The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930 (2017), and Casablanca Chandigarh. Reports on Modernization at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal (2013; Gio Ponti. Amare l’architettura at the MAXXI Museum in Rome (2019). Recent publications: The Metropolis In Latin America, 1830-1930, co-edited with Idurre Alonso (GRI Publications, 2021), Rethinking Global Modernism. Architectural Historiography and the Postcolonial, co-edited with Vikram Prakash (Routledge, 2021); forthcoming, the facsimile reprint of the Album Punjab 1951, a notebook by Le Corbusier.  

Session 2: The Impact of Spirituality on Mendelsohn ́s Oeuvre

Ulrich Knufinke, Germany, Lower Saxony State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments/TU Braunschweig

Erich Mendelsohn's Jewish cemetery complex in Königberg (Kaliningrad): Cemetery buildings as a contribution to the development of architecture with Jewish connotations in the Weimar Republic

While Erich Mendelsohn worked mainly for private Jewish clients and companies owned by Jews during his time in Berlin, he only got to realize a few projects for Jewish communities, clubs and associations during these years, including a lodge building for a Jewish Freemason lodge in Tilsit and for the House of the Jewish Youth in Essen. Also among them, the Jewish cemetery in Königsberg (today Kaliningrad) from 1927-29, which was almost completely destroyed in the Second World War. It is undoubtedly an outstanding project in his oeuvre combining expressively modern design with the specific requirements of Jewish cemetery buildings. In contrast to the intimacy conveyed by the synagogue room of the lodge building in Tilsit, Mendelsohn’s mourning hall in Königsberg adopts an almost sacral architectural language. It not only anticipates his own synagogues built after 1945, but was also regarded as a model at the time.

The Königsberg complex is one of a number of other examples of Jewish cemetery architecture from the Weimar Republic, in which the architects – mostly Jewish – and their commissioning communities not only realized functional buildings for the quite complex building task, but also sought an appropriate contemporary architectural design – with quite different solutions. The cemetery halls in Leipzig and Halle an der Saale (Wilhelm Haller, 1928 and 1930 respectively), in Frankfurt am Main (Fritz Nathan, 1928), in Cologne-Bocklemünd (Robert Stern, 1930), and in Essen-Huttrop (Hermann Finger, 1931) are other examples, as well as the various preliminary designs (Fritz Landauer, Fritz Nathan) for the mourning hall at the cemetery in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt finally realized in 1938 as one of the last Jewish buildings before the Holocaust.
The article examines Mendelsohn's cemetery complex in Königsberg against the background of the functional requirements and the contemporary debates about specifically "Jewish" architecture and classifies it in the development of Jewish cemetery buildings - and further: of the religiously determined Jewish architecture as a whole. It examines functional and design models and inquires about the national and international reception of the quickly published project. Moreover, it raises the question about whether and in what way the cemetery complex was groundbreaking for Mendelssohn's work with Jewish-religious building projects, especially for the synagogue rooms in the USA.
Ulrich Knufinke
is an architectural historian and monument conservator. He currently works at the Lower Saxony State Office for Monuments Preservation and is also the scientific director of the Bet Tfila - Research Center for Jewish Architecture at the Technical University of Braunschweig. Mendelsohn's projects in Allenstein and Königsberg already played a role in his dissertation "Buildings of Jewish cemeteries in Germany" (Petersberg, 2007). As a scholarship holder at the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Knufinke dealt intensively with modernist buildings in Jerusalem (e.g. “Bauhaus Jerusalem”, Tel Aviv 2012), including Mendelsohn’s projects that were influential in Palestine. His habilitation thesis at the University of Stuttgart (2014) summarized some of his "contributions to the history of Jewish architecture". Knufinke was a lecturer at the Universities of Braunschweig and Potsdam and a guest professor at the University of Innsbruck. He has been a member of the Koldewey Society, the Association of German Art Historians and ICOMOS Germany for many years.  
Kathleen James-Chakraborty, Ireland/ USA, University College Dublin (online)

Spiritual heritage - Mendelsohn's late synagogue architecture in the US

Eric Mendelsohn's four synagogues in the United States redefined the building type for postwar Jewish communities for whom the importance of religious observance and the responsibility for the welfare of world Jewry had greatly increased following the Holocaust. Combining lessons from German religious architecture, including his own work, erected during the Weimar Republic, with an attentiveness to the specifics of the contexts of the suburbs of Cleveland, Grand Rapids, St. Louis, and St. Paul, Mendelsohn designed understated structures that exhibited an attentiveness to worship with spaces for education and for social activities. The results were among the most architecturally distinguished buildings in their respective communities and inspired other Jewish congregations to continue to temples that met the same high standards.
Kathleen James-Chakraborty
is professor of art history at University College Dublin. She is currently also an Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Her books include Erich Mendelsohn and the Architecture of German Modernism (Cambridge, 1997), Architecture since 1400 (Minnesota, 2014), and Modernism as Memory: Building Identity in the Federal Republic of Germany (Minnesota, 20018). James-Chakraborty holds an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for a project entitled: Expanding Agency: Women, Race, and the Global Dissemination of Modern Architecture.  

Session 3: Life and Work in Exile

Eric Nay, Canada, OCAD University in Toronto

Exploring Erich Mendelsohn’s Oeuvre as a Narrative of Place and Diaspora

Understanding Erich Mendelsohn’s transnational oeuvre demands a more complex historical and geographical analysis of how the intertwining of both “diaspora” and “place” shaped his work and life over time. Accordingly, the proposed UNESCO nomination must interweave the narratives of war, postwar Jewish diaspora, Zionism and the emergence of California, within architecture and design culture (seen amongst numerous architects fleeing Europe at the time including Mendelsohn, Neutra, Schindler, et. al.). The particularity of Mendelsohn’s journey and the buildings left in its wake from Potsdam and Berlin to Jerusalem and San Francisco describes a noteworthy transnationalism that needs to be contextualized as both “tangible” and “intangible” cultural heritage, to use UNESCO’s own language.

This particular analysis of Mendelsohn’s work as a form of diasporic transnationalism is based on experiences and methods honed within the author’s PhD research, which focused on Le Corbusier’s serial UNESCO nomination in 2016 (Nay 2018). Indeed, the research allowed to unpack and analyse UNESCO’s policies and practices, amongst other goals. Methods included interviews with UNESCO officials in Paris, with external UNESCO experts and with staff of numerous dedicated heritage foundations in France and Switzerland. It further involved an analysis of documents held in the archives of ICOMOS International (Paris) pertaining to the nomination process over the years. Goals included assessing flaws and anomalies in the nomination process while pursuing more salient theoretical issues, which included how certain topics such as settler-colonialism, racism, a.o. shaped the nomination and the figuration of Le Corbusier.

The particularity of Le Corbusier’s laborious and highly fraught serial nomination process will be used in this project as a case study to help prepare a Mendelsohn’s nomination. Based on this experience, the author claims an initial approach seeking to put forth Mendelsohn’s broad oeuvre as the subject of nomination to frame the process and reflect the architect’s diasporic narrative using his transnational body of work as an outcome of this narrative. This approach is in accordance with current UNESCO policies and goals to trans-nationalize, particularize and de-Europeanize nominations as stated by UNESCO officials in my research, as well as in other literature. Finally, considering that serial nominations are yet exceptions paired with UNESCO’s conscious shift to prioritize modernism(s) outside of Europe predicates an emphasis of Mendelsohn’s transnationality and pursuing connections to the narratives of the post-war Jewish diaspora would be a valuable strategy to take up.
Eric Nay
has practiced architecture in New York City, Chicago and California and held multiple faculty and research appointments in Canada, the US and internationally. He teaches architectural history and theory as well as environmental and industrial design studios at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is a tenured Associate Professor at OCAD University in Toronto (Ontario College of Art & Design). His interdisciplinary research deals with a wide range of issues from modern architectural heritage to decolonization and the intersection of sustainability and social justice. Dr. Nay is the progeny of Austrian Jews fleeing Europe in the 1930’s. His PhD thesis Canonizing Le Corbusier: The Making of an Architectural Icon as Colonial Hegemony (University of Toronto, 2018) can be consulted here
Ita Heinze-Greenberg, Germany, ETH Zurich, Institut gta

Erich Mendelsohn: Architecture and Exile

Architecture and exile are central notions that make up Erich Mendelsohn's biography. They seem fundamentally antagonistic: architecture stands for a static immobile state, exile for a restless mobile condition. As an architect, Mendelsohn was qua definitionem engaged with the production of human habitat, with humanizing space by creating homes in the sense of Heimat. In contrast, Mendelsohn’s life was marked by exclusion and departure, by multiple migrations, by the frequent loss of his own home. His paths were repeatedly detracted by political currents, to which he reacted like a seismograph. Looking back, he wrote: “Ubi bene, ibi patria is not an opportunistic saying. For that, migrations from country to country are too arduous and energy-sapping. But it is the only solution for a man who loves freedom when confronted with the pestilence of tyranny". Towards the end of his life, Mendelsohn may have seen in his curriculum vitae the cliché of the eternally wandering Jew: Germany – England – Palestine – America; four countries on three different continents and three different nationalities in the course of 66 years. By deliberately declaring the dynamic – the elastic principle, as he called it – to be the key concept of his building and life constructions, Mendelsohn united both concepts – dwelling and wandering, home and exile. His architecture, which he understood – especially in his early visionary designs – to be essentially of Jewish origin, can be seen as a synthesis of space and time, or as the temporalization of space. Here, as well as in the approach of transforming dualistic systems into a synthesis, thinkers such as Martin Buber or Bruno Zevi recognized fundamental features of Judaism. In this respect, Mendelsohn's buildings represent a materialization of Jewish experience and Hebrew thought. The proposed paper seeks to grasp the distinct and unique nature of Erich Mendelsohn's lifework through the notion of exile. Included in the critical assessment are approaches by Jewish scholars, who – not least on the basis of their own migration experiences – dealt in depth with the meaning of home and exile, as well as with a Jewish-Hebrew understanding of architecture
Ita Heinze-Greenberg
is an architectural historian and professor emerita of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, where she was assigned to the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) from 2012 to 2019. She earned her doctorate from the University of Bonn with a thesis on Erich Mendelsohn's buildings in Mandate Palestine. Subsequently, she held research and teaching positions at various institutions, including the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Technion in Haifa (1984-1998), the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem (1993), the University of Augsburg (1999), the Delft University of Technology (2004-2005) and the Technical University of Munich (2008-2012). Her numerous publications concentrate on 19th and 20th century architecture with foci on nation building, identity construction, migration studies, and on the work of Erich Mendelsohn.

Session 4: International Influence on and through Mendelsohn ́s Work

Alan Powers, UK, University of Kent (online)

Erich Mendelsohn and the Reception of Modernism in England, 1920-1933

Erich Mendelsohn and the Reception of Modernism in England, 1920-1933 Well before Mendelsohn settled in London in 1933, he had been the best-known German architect among professionals and the general public, and second only to Le Corbusier as a representative of Modernism as a whole. His work was initially promoted by the German-American writer and translator, Herman George Scheffauer, whose translation of Mendelsohn’s Structures and Sketches was published by Ernest Benn in 1924, together with Scheffauer’s profile of Mendelsohn in the Architectural Review and a chapter in his book New Vision in the German Arts, 1924. These sources led to an early emphasis on the Einstein Tower, which was generally criticised, but also an object of fascination when little was known or understood about German Modernism in any of the arts. Mendelsohn’s visit to England in 1930 was widely covered in the press, and his work was admired for its qualities of vitalism. The Einstein Tower gave way to knowledge of later works. He lectured at the Architectural Association and the Architecture Club, and the architect and teacher Howard Robertson made a radio broadcast on Mendelsohn’s opinions about London architecture. A short text of his was printed in The Listener, the BBC’s magazine, which also printed a by the politician Harold Nicholson, reporting on a conversation with Mendelsohn. At this time, Gropius and Mies were hardly known. The paper compares this early interest in Mendelsohn with the more muted reception of his built work in the UK, although critics expressed a preference for his later, less Expressionist mode.
Alan Powers
Senior Lecturer at the London School of Architecture and at the School of Architecture and Planning of the University of Kent. Powers is a specialist in 1930s Modernism in Britain, as conservationist, teacher and historian. He has published a major monograph on Serge Chermayeff in 2001 hand visited the three Mendelsohn and Chermayeff buildings in England on several occasions. Wider research looks into the context of Modernism in relation to German influences in his book Bauhaus Goes West (2019). He is an active member of DOCOMOMO International and DOCOMOMO UK (Register for the period 1920-1945) and has been part of the English Heritage Post-War Listing Advisory Committee (1992-2002). Further memberships in different functions include in the Society of Antiquaries, Twentieth Century Society, Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, Honorary Fellow, RIBA.
Patxi Eguiluz & Carlos Copertone, Spain, Freelancer


Long before he had his own corpus of built architecture, Erich Mendelsohn’s drawings made a powerful impact that quickly spread beyond his native Germany. “Col sporcar si trova” (i.e. “by messing about, one discovers”), as Piranesi noted with regards to drawing, and indeed Mendelsohn’s early, prescient sketches soon turned him into a proto-influencer. We shall now try to analyse, briefly, his influence in Spain.

In 1924, the first journal of Spanish architecture (Arquitectura) published a text about Mendelsohn, yet evidently not about his built work (the Einstein Tower was still under construction): instead, it focused on his sketches, ones that hinted at a new way of doing things. Even though they depicted utopian projects, they transcended the two-dimensional in their highly distinctive formal freedom.

From then on, he appeared in the journal frequently, and in 1929 his reputation in Spain was further established when he gave lectures in Madrid and Bilbao. At that point, he had already designed and built some of his most important works. In a gradual process of formal refinement, he began to curb his initial expressionistic excesses, yet his projects still retained certain stylistic features that afforded them a real sense of movement. Setting curved elements against horizontal lines created theatrical, dynamic effects, stretching the buildings in perspective. Their volumes were broken up by circular and semi-cylindrical forms, each one like an axis that could change the visual direction. As such, Mendelsohn had managed to create his own unique expressive language, one that was highly recognisable amid the prevailing functionalist architecture of the time.
The wide spread impact of the previously mentioned articles, and the two lectures he gave in Spain, had a profound effect on the subsequent urban architecture in these two cities. Many new buildings, from then on, were clearly influenced by this new architectural language, which was strikingly bold. Without Mendelsohn, the so-called Spanish expressionist rationalism would never have come to light.

In Madrid, there are two standout examples of superb architecture that respond emphatically to the urban surroundings, in an iconic way. In 1931, Luis Martínez-Feduchi and Vicente Eced, on Gran Vía itself, used arounded edge with horizontal bars to resolve a corner space, thus conceiving one of the standout buildings of the new architecture in Spain, namely the Edificio Carrión. Not far from there, and in that same year, Luis Gutiérrez Soto built the Cine Barceló, another corner building, which is notable for its mix of naval imagery and a façade structure made up of horizontal strips and gaps.
Patxi Eguiluz
is an architect, curator, researcher and critic, focused on construction and urbanism. He edits books on art and architecture at Caniche Editorial, and has curated and developed several exhibitions and projects at various institutions, across Spain and abroad.

Carlos Copertone
completed his PhD at the University of Extremadura, specialising in urbanism. He edits books on art and architecture at Caniche Editorial, and has curated and developed several exhibitions, programmes, and projects. Copertone has lectured extensively, both in Spain and internationally. Recent exhibitions, talks and publications include Poured Architecture: Sergio Prego on Miguel Fisac (Graham Foundation, Chicago, 2020) on the late Spanish architect Miguel Fisac and the contemporary work of the Basque-born, Brooklyn-based artist Sergio Prego, the talk Contadas obras: VILLA MENDELSOHN (CA2M/ Centro de Arte 2 de Mayo, in Madrid, 2020, and the book Artist’s Book with Ignasi Aballí, for the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as part of the project Correction (upcoming, 2022).
Marco Silvestri, Germany, University of Paderborn

On the Global impact of Erich Mendelsohn's architecture. Sergio Larraín's Oberpaur Building in Santiago and modern architecture in Chile.

Between 1929 and 1936, in the course of only seven years, two iconic buildings emerged in Santiago and Valparaiso changing the country’s architecture profoundly – the Oberpaur Building and the Correo Principal. In the year before, Sergio Larraín García-Moreno, a young Chilean architect had travelled through Europe for his honeymoon. As a student at the Universidad Católica in Santiago de Chile, he was a great admirer of Le Corbusier and developed a growing dislike of the Beaux-Arts and Art-Nouveau architecture taught at his faculty. In Europe, Larraín met Le Corbusier and visited the Bauhaus some weeks later. He also stayed in Stuttgart where he toured the Weissenhofsiedlung which had a great impact on the development of his architectural mindset. At that period, Stuttgart was a bustling modernist city, where different innovative building projects were in progress at the same time, one of them was the Schocken department stores (Kaufhaus Schocken) created by Erich Mendelsohn, a building he most likely saw as well. Back in Chile, Larraín joined the architecture office of his cousin Jorge Artega who was well established in the construction industry. Only one year later, Artega was commissioned by the Banco Hipotecarioth to build the Oberpaur department store which he entrusted to Larraín. It became the most discussed new building project in Chile and the starting point of modernist architecture in the country. With its overall simplicity, its geometric forms, the open floor plans, the stripped windows, the large shop windows in the basement and the semicircular staircase tower on the left side, the building obviously reminds of Mendelsohn’s Kaufhaus Schocken and incorporates some of its major innovations. Interestingly, it was the same year when the customer, Richard Oberpaur, had emigrated to Chile from Ludwigsburg, a little town near Stuttgart where the Oberpaur family already owned a successful warehouse. Moreover, at the age of 31, Larraín was appointed a professor at the Universidad Católica and was entrusted with the teaching of architects. He became one of Chile’s most busy and well- connected architects. With his projects, Edificio Santa Lucia and Edificio Merced, realised between 1932 and 1934, he established the concept of rationalist architecture in Chile for which he could gain a group of followers. In 1936, the State of Chile commissioned a new Correo Principal in Valparaiso. Marcelo Delgin was assigned to substitute the neoclassical style post-office building for a construction with explicit reference to the Oberpaur building and thus to Mendelsohn’s architecture. With this paper I want to follow these paths and evaluate the influence of Mendelsohn’s architecture on the Chilean modernist movement and its early developments. Firstly, Mendelsohn ́s influence must be analyzed by comparing the different buildings and their structures. A second focus should be on Mendelsohn's influence on Larraín's architecture and teaching to be realized by means of interviews and the evaluation of his writings. Thus, it is interesting to analyze how Mendelsohn ́s work and his success in Germany were received in Chile as well as to understand the role of players like the Chilean state and Richard Oberpaur.
Marco Silvestri
studied art history and philosophy at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. After occupation as a freelance art historian at museums and galleries, he has been working, since 2013, as a research assistant at the Chair of Material and Intangible Cultural Heritage at the University of Paderborn, Germany. From 2014 to 2016, he acted as a project coordinator of the BMBF funded research study “Weser Sandstone – as a global cultural asset”. Research stays of several months took him to Spain, Peru and Bolivia. From August 2018 to September 2019, he was a predoctoral fellow of the Gerda Henkel Foundation, Germany. He earned a doctorate in art history in 2021 regarding urban planning of mining towns in the early modern period in Peru and Germany. My research interests include urban planning and architectural theory, architectural cultural exchange, Bauhüttenwesen and 19th century architecture. He published articles on urban planning in Residenz and on mining towns, architectural reconstruction in the 17th century, and on the re-establishment of building lodges in the 19th century. The publication of the doctoral thesis is in preparation as well as a peer reviewed paper on artist migration between Spain and Peru/Mexico.

Session 5: Mendelsohn ́s placement in architectural history

Anat Falbel, Brazil, European Architectural History Network

Erich Mendelsohn: the crisis of the modern movement and historiographical criticism

In the beginnings of 1968, fifteen years after Erich Mendelsohn's death, the city of Berlin hosted the first posthumous exhibition dedicated to the architect in his homeland, Erich Mendelsohn 1887-1953 Ideen Bauten Projekte. Curated by Julius Posener the exhibition was the first to recognize the architect’s oeuvre since his departure into exile in 1933. It began to be conceived in 1964 by art historian Oskar Beyer who had met Mendelsohn still in 1919, at the architect's first and iconic exposition Architekturen in Eisen und Beton, in Paul Cassirer’s gallery. The friendship shared between the historian and the architect persisted even after the latter's death, with Beyer continuing to promote Mendelsohn's work through numerous writings, including the edition in 1961 of the correspondence between the architect and his wife Louise Mendelsohn. With Beyer's untimely death in 1964, his widow Margarete Löwenfeld, Erwin Gottschalk, and Louise Mendelsohn suggested that Posener take over the exhibition project. This latter had met Mendelsohn as a correspondent for the magazine L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui in Germany in 1930 and worked with the architect in his Berlin office and later in Jerusalem during the British mandate between 1935 and 1947. The architect and historian Bruno Zevi (1918-2000) defined Mendelsohn's return to Germany as a traumatic experience, simultaneously a dilemma and a challenge. Nevertheless, an experience that carried the promise of the continuity of the architect's presence and his work. Indeed, although his passionate rhetoric, Zevi's sensitive observation foreshadows the different issues and approaches behind the international recovery and resumption of Mendelsohn's work within the historiography of modern architecture on the second half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21th. Effectively, as the engaged Italian historian, other scholars from different generations and agendas considered both expressionism in architecture and Erich Mendelsohn’s trajectory as keys to the crises as well as the theoretical and formal impasses of the discipline, as would be exemplified by the studies that emerged in the 1990s in the context of the discussions on exiles, estrangements or otherness and cultural transfers. Hence, to answer the challenge of the present call, my presentation will examine the resumption of Mendelsohn's work, particularly between the 1960s and 1970s, as part of the contemporary historiographical revision of the modern movement, considering two main centers of debates in Europe, England, and Italy. Accordingly, our analysis will concentrate on the circle of historians and critics around The Architectural Review. Among those were Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), responsible for the introduction to the English edition of Mendelsohn's correspondence; Reyner Banham (1922-1988), the leader of the second generation of revisionists and his call for rewriting the history of the modern movement through the revelation of the "silence zones"; and closing the English debate with the critical approach of Dennis Sharp (1933-2010) concerning Mendelsohn's architectural production. The Italian debate is represented by Bruno Zevi's passionate apology of the German architect's oeuvre and his defense of the organic architecture.
Anat Falbel
received her Ph. D in Architecture and Urbanism from the University of São Paulo, in 2003, with the thesis “Lucjan Korngold: the trajectory of an immigrant architect”, dealing with the subject of é migrés architects, between the 40’s and 60’s in the city of São Paulo. A Canadian Center of Architecture Visiting scholar (2013). Presently she is one of the organizers of the Urban Photography Film and Video EAHN Working group, and editorial member of the Cahiers de la Recherche Architecturale Urbaine et Paysagère. In 2011 she curated the exhibitions “Exile and Modernity: The space of the foreigner in the city of Sao Paulo” and in 2013 “Vagabond Stars: Memories of the Jewish Theater in Brazil”. Between many articles she also edited the volumes Bruno Zevi Architettura e hebraismo: Mendelsohn. And Joseph Rykwert’s The house of Adam in Paradise, (2002), The Idea of the City (2006) and The Dancing Column (2015), by Editora Perspectiva (2015), Judeus no Brasil. História e historiografia by Editora Garamond (2021)
Wim De Wit & Daniel Gregory, USA, Architectural Historian and Curator & Architectural Historian and Editor (online)

Bay Region Modern Meets Mendelsohn

Of Erich Mendelsohn’s late oeuvre--the American work designed and executed between 1945 and 1953--his buildings in San Francisco’s Bay Area are the least well known. This is somewhat surprising, as the German-British-Israeli architect found in Northern California not only supportive clients who gave him interesting commissions, but also a sympathetic design environment in and outside UC Berkeley’s Architecture School, which allowed him to explore and respond to the architecture of his region.

His new California compatriots included modern regionalist architects William Wurster, shortly to take over the deanship at Berkeley, and Joseph Esherick, whose firm would go on to design the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He also got to know landscape architect Thomas Church whose abstract Donnell pool and garden at Sonoma of 1949 gained international acclaim, and landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, who, in the 1960s, created the master plan for the Sea Ranch, a community on the Sonoma coast that effectively jump-started the careers of Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull, and Richard Whitaker (MLTW). Mendelsohn’s Northern California counterparts favored expressive natural materials – often redwood, plywood, and concrete block – emphatic site-sensitive indoor-outdoor connections, and client-oriented design. Wurster summed up best the Bay Region’s version of a contemporary functionalist approach: “I like to work on direct, honest solutions, avoiding exotic materials, using indigenous things so that there is no affectation, and the best is obtained for the money.”

Mendelsohn must have felt an affinity with the Bay Area’s architectural community. While his preferred building materials (concrete, glass, and steel) were very different from those used by the Bay Region modernists, he was just as attentive to the siting of his buildings, and to the relationship between inside and out. He, however, took his work one step further. Through curving, protruding spaces and windows, he created the sense in his buildings that they were living organisms, structures that had naturally grown with pulsating veins or contracting muscles moving right under the skin. His design philosophy can probably best be illustrated in the Russell Residence, a house in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood for a descendant of the blue-jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss. With one wing of the L-shaped house lifted off the ground and featuring a large circular volume projecting from the corner of the master bedroom, the house gives the inhabitants the feeling that they are floating above the San Francisco Bay as if they are part of the natural environment, like the many seagulls one can see hovering over the water. Architectural historian Sally Woodbridge wrote in her book Bay Area Houses, (Oxford University Press, 1976, p. 315) that the Russell Residence “…clearly shows the marriage of the Bay Region with the International Style.” Through this design Mendelsohn approached the same prominence as two other German architects, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, who brought European Modernism to America’s East Coast and Midwest, respectively. He deserves finally to be recognized at that level.
Wim De Wit
is a freelance architectural historian and curator. He studied architectural history at the Catholic University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. After his graduation, he was appointed as scholarly researcher at the Netherlands Documentation Center for Architecture in Amsterdam (1974-1982). Having moved to the United States in 1982, he first worked as a guest curator at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York. From 1983 until 1993, he was the curator for architecture at the Chicago Historical Society, and from 1993-2013 he was the Head of Special Collections and later of the Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Between 2013 and 2017, he had the position of Adjunct Curator of Architecture and Design at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center. He organized numerous exhibitions and published accompanying catalogs at all these institutions. De Wit was president of the board of the International Confederation of Architectural Museums (ICAM) between 1994 and 1998, and was member of the board of the Society of Architectural Historians during the years 1988-1991, and 2009-2012.

Daniel Gregory
an architectural historian and longtime magazine and website editor, is the author of Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House (Rizzoli 2008), The New Farm: Contemporary Rural Architecture (Princeton Architectural Press, 2020), and numerous essays about California architecture. He graduated from Yale, received his Ph. D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and lives in the Bay Area.
Emily Pugh, USA, The Getty Research Institute

In the Shadow of Expressionism: Erich Mendelsohn’s Architecture in the 1950s and 1960s

The 1950s and 60s arguably represent both a high point in Erich Mendelsohn’s international influence on architecture and a nadir in his reception by the critical establishment. Such iconic post-World War II structures as Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal in New York (1959–62) or Frei Otto’s German Pavilion for Expo ’67 in Montreal both evince the fusion of organicism and technical innovation that characterized Mendelsohn’s approach to design and structure; yet it was during this same period that Mendelsohn, along with many architects associated with the Expressionist movement, fell out of mainstream architectural discourse. In 1960, even as Saarinen’s building was rising at Idlewild Airport, Mendelsohn’s Schocken Department Store in Stuttgart was demolished.
How, wondered critic Reyner Banham in 1967, did the label of Expressionism “come to rank as a sinister aberration that had to be trampled down whenever it reappeared?”1 My paper seeks to address Banham’s question, considering both the influence of Erich Mendelsohn in the 1950s and 60s and the ways in which this influence was marginalized and even ignored in architectural discourse of the same era. In particular, I will explore how the sculptural, curtain wall facades of Mendelsohn’s prewar commercial buildings served as precursors for the singular, volumetric forms that characterized much of civic and commercial architecture in the postwar, as evidenced by the work of Saarinen and Otto, among others. Moreover in doing so, I will examine the tension between the notion that Expressionist architecture was utopian and un-buildable—an assertion fundamental to discourse on the movement in the 1960s—and the reality of how Mendelsohn’s built works shaped architectural culture, not only in that decade but in those that followed.


ICOMOS Germany, ICOMOS Israel and Architektenkammer Berlin (Chamber of Architects Berlin)

Steering Committee

Jörg Haspel and Regina Stephan (ICOMOS Germany) as well as Eran Mordohovich and Inbal Ben Asher Gitler (ICOMOS Israel), Initiators of the Initiative Circle for a multinational network on outstanding works of Erich Mendelsohn

Preparatory/Scientific Committee

  • Inbal Ben Asher Gitler, Sapir Academic College, Co-chair of the Israel Chapter of DOCOMOMO International, ICOMOS Israel
  • Maristella Casciato, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
  • Jörg Haspel, ICOMOS Germany, Technische Universität Berlin
  • Kathleen James Chakraborty, University College Dublin
  • Eran Mordohovich, Technion Haifa, President ICOMOS Israel
  • Alona Nitzan Shiftan, Technion Haifa, Head of the Arenson Built Heritage, Research Center
  • Regina Stephan, University of Applied Sciences Mainz, ICOMOS Germany
Chamber of Architects/Architektenkammer | © Klemens Renner

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