Erich Mendelsohn was born in Allenstein, East Prussia (now Poland) in 1887. He studied in
Berlin and Munich where he became involved with Expressionism. These early experiences
generated a personal philosophy of Dynamism that demonstrated an attitude that was both
expressionistic and personal in nature. Mendelsohn used no historical precedents in formulating
his designs. He conceived of his building designs through the use of iconic and schematic
sketches that became literal roadmaps for the development of all aspects of its exterior form.
His early buildings avoid the eclectic borrowing which characterize so many of his
contemporaries. Consequently, his architectural ideas were derived from expressionistic
sketches and romantic symbolism which recognized that the qualities of modern building
materials should dictate a new architecture.
Mendelsohn immigrated to the United States in 1941 and was given membership with the
American Institute of Architects upon his arrival in the US, but he received the permission to
practice only in 1946. He established an architectural practice in San Francisco with Michael
Gallis as his associate, Hans Schiller as his assistant, and Jim Burke as the building
construction supervisor. His best known buildings in the United States are the Maimonides
Hospital in San Francisco and a number of Jewish Community centers. In 1947 he was
appointed a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeleys School of Architecture.
Currently, only a small number of institutions hold significant examples of Mendelsohns work
including the Erich Mendelsohns architectural collection at the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, a
contribution of his sketchbooks to the University of California, Berkeley, a collection of eighteen
architectural renderings held by MoMA in New York, the Erich and Luise Mendelsohn papers held
by the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, four renderings held by the Canadian Centre for
Architecture, and just two renderings held by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
In later designs, Mendelsohn moved away from his expressionist architecture, designing a series
of buildings in a more linear fashion in the vein of his contemporaries Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
and Marcel Breuer. His buildings include the Einsteinturm, a solar observatory in Potsdam,
Germany (1920-21), The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex, England (1934), and
the Weizmann House near Tel Aviv, Israel (1935-36). Mendelsohn died in San Francisco,
California in 1953.