The essayistic biography provided by Ita Heinze-Greenberg is divided into fifteen short chapters, treating from various positions the life story of the German architect Erich Mendelsohn, who was born in 1887 in the East Prussian town of Allenstein (today’s Olsztyn, in Poland), and who died in San Francisco in 1953. Ita Heinze-Greenberg, author of the book, an art historian, and lecturer at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at the ETH Zürich, is one of the leading experts on the works of Erich Mendelsohn.
The submitted volume Erich Mendelsohn…biographical notes from life is an extended version of a biographical essay which in 2006 was commissioned and published in Polish by the Borussia cultural foundation in Mendelsohn’s birthplace of Olsztyn. The complicated fate of a German Jew from East Prussia is even expressed in some of its chapter titles, such as An Orientalist from East Prussia, Luise, Sketches, The Einstein Tower, “Bacchanalia”, Columbus House, The Mediterranean, Jerusalem, The Patron, America, “The Literati”. The conclusion is made up of a chronological overview of Mendelsohn’s life and a bibliography. In the text his sketches are published, with a separate addendum of colour sketches and photographs of selected buildings, with an emphasis on Mendelsohn’s projects in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The author proceeds chronologically, at the same time in individual chapters she changes the line aim of her narrative, just as fate changed the life of the architect. The book’s introduction is dedicated to Mendelsohn’s beginnings, family background, and a discussion with his wife Luise née Maas, whom the author was able to visit at the end of her life. A description of the deep relationship between the Mendelsohns follows, focussing the role Luise played in his architectural work. A decisive chapter is dedicated to the genesis of Mendelsohn’s sketches, characteristic of the work of this architect, perhaps more so than any other world architect. The author follows the correspondence which Mendelsohn kept up with his wife throughout their entire life together and comments on the peripeteia of professional criticism on his work.
Erich Mendelsohn had a specific interest in arts from his early youth. He loved not only architecture but also music, painting and literature. In spite of this he arrived at architecture with difficulty, for his father had predicted that his son would dedicate himself to business. After brief attempts at employment and studying national economics, he switched to architecture in Berlin-Charlottenburg and later in Munich, where he studied under Theodor Fischer. There he took part in the turbulent artistic life, met members of the group Der Blaue Reiter, and started independent work after his diploma in 1912. He got involved in designing press festivals and together with Wassily Kandinsky he developed plans to re-establish Munich’s artist theatre. All this came to an halt with the outbreak of World War I. It was during the war in the trenches at the Russian front, later at the hellish West front, that he experimented with drawing. He aspired to express himself via sketching the most dynamic essential of the imagined building. After returning from the front, he showed his drawings at the Berlin gallery of Paul Cassirer. These were his first radical contributions to the development of world architecture. At the time he came up with his most famous building – the Einstein Tower in Potsdam, near Berlin. In the course of the 1920s followed projects for department stores, office buildings and villas in Berlin, Stuttgart, Chemnitz, Wroclaw, Gliwice and other cities in Germany, but also in Soviet Russia and elsewhere. His last work on the European continent was the Bachner department store in Ostrava (1932-1933).
His emigration in 1933 formed a difficult anabasis from the start. Mendelsohn worked for several years in London and at the same time in Jerusalem. In both countries – England and Palestine – he left remarkable architectural traces. In 1941 he moved to the United States. At first it was difficult for him to find employment there. It was not until after the war that, as an American citizen, he fully established roots: he designed synagogues, lectured at universities, and prepared the writing of books on architecture. This abandoned work represents an essential contribution to the development of world architecture in the past century. This is proven also by literary reviews of his work and the interest in Mendelson’s life and works to the present day.
SPOK vydává v českém jazyce esejisticky podaný životopis významného architekta Ericha Mendelsohna.
Erich Mendelsohn: … ze života / Erich Mendelsohn: Biografisches
Koncepce a editoři Tadeáš Goryczka a Jaroslav Němec
Text Ita Heinze-Greenberg
Překlad z němčiny Jaroslava Burkertová a Jitka Kňourková
Překlad popisek k fotografiím z němčiny Radovan Charvát
Překlad resumé Matthew Sweney (angličtina),
Martyna Radłowska – Obrusník (polština)
Jazyková korektura Martina Dragonová, Radovan Charvát
Odborná redakce Martin Strakoš
Graficky upravil a sazbu provedl Jaroslav Němec
Vytiskla tiskárna Printo, s. r. o., Ostrava – Poruba
Vydání první, Ostrava 2012
Vydal SPOK – spolek pro ostravskou kulturu, o. s.
Vdovská 36, 712 00 Ostrava | www.trojhlavydrak.com
Cena: 499 Kč (DPC vč. DPH)
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Na vydání publikace finančně přispěly: Česko-německý fond budoucnosti Nadace české architektury a David Feltl
Die Herausgabe dieser Publikation wurde aus Mitteln des Tschechisch-Deutschen Zukunftsfonds, der Stiftung der tschechischen Architektur gefördert, und David Feltl