I was shocked to read that Park Synagogue in Cleveland Ohio is offering its main home, an architecture masterpiece by Erich Mendelsohn for sale. This striking building was designed in 1947 by German architect Erich Mendelsohn, preserving his iconic streamlining signature style, which he had first devised in 1920s Germany. No price or future use for the property is suggested in the listing by Allegro.
Of all members of the Modern Movement working in Berlin during the 1920s, Erich Mendelsohn stood out. He was not only the city’s most successful and prolific architect, but also devised a new type of architecture, known as ‘dynamic functionalism’ or ‘streamlining.’ The notion that the progressive life in the metropolis (Berlin) should be the point of departure for the new architecture was at the core of his oeuvre and his vocabulary had become so influential, that it affected modern architecture and industrial design across the globe. But when the Nazis came to power, Mendelsohn was a target. Not only because he was Jewish, but also because the type of architecture he created was seen by the Nazis as a threat to the values of the German people and was utilized in as such by the Nazi para-governmental art propaganda unit.
In the spring of 1933, Mendelsohn fled Germany to England, where he immediately formed an architecture practice, along with another practice in Jerusalem, moving between the two, until closing his office in London. His practice in Palestine was largely sponsored by the World Zionist Organization and by the government of the British Mandate, and the volume of his architecture was outstanding. It is fair to say that Mendelsohn experienced a great level of success during his years in Palestine (1934-41), establishing his brand of modernism as a cultural entity. His prestigious and ambitious buildings — the famed Anglo Palestine Bank, Hadassah Hospital, and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the magnificent villa for his wealthy patron Salman Schocken (founder of the Schocken Published house), and the striking home of Chaim Weizmann president of the Zionist Organization and later as the first president of Israel – came to express his belief in the Zionist program and in its particular agenda that the Jewish people should build a homeland in Palestine, and that it should be modern, modernized, and exemplifying cultural Zionism.
Mendelsohn could not have known that leaving Palestine for the US in 1941 would put an end to his successful and prolific career. He arrived to America during the WWII and the Depression, and went into obscurity. He was teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the end of WWII, tried to renew his architecture practice by founding an office in San Francisco. However, most of his projects including four synagogues were commissioned by the Jewish community. Park Synagogue in Cleveland was not only his most important building in the US, but also a substantial example of modern synagogue design. Do you want to live in a Mendelsohn’s building? Images – sources are unknown.