Forgotten Beauty – The Art of Erich Mendelssohn

Buildings that still stand, but not in the prominent positions they once did. Often confused with Bauhaus. This is Forgotten Beauty – THe Art of Erich Mendelssohn


The IG Metall Haus in Berlin’s Kreuzberg. The architectural process for this building was dominated by the brilliant architect Erich Mendelssohn, famous for other projects such as Mossehaus also in Kreuzberg, Einstein Tower in Potsdam and the red banner factory in St Petersberg.

Not Bauhaus

Mendelssohn was a genius of architecture. Whilst it is common to confuse or to attribute all clean-lined architecture of the 1920s to the Bauhaus group, Mendelssohn didn’t belong to this. Instead the beautiful lines, with subtle or bold curves belonged to Streamline Moderne and Art Deco.

When Bauhaus was focusing on super simplicity, following on from architects like Louis Sullivan of Chicago in the 1890s who believed that famous phrase of ‘form must follow function.’ The benefit of Louis Sullivan’s ideology of architecture was that it benefited the developer. That was the birth of our modern cities. However, with Mendelssohn and Streamline Moderne it was quite the opposite.

The buildings were exquisite and still define landscapes across the world. They are not in galleries but the art of Erich Mendelssohn is for you to see on the street.

Streamline Moderne looked towards embellishments, repetitive lines, artisanal techniques. There was quality in the materials. Careful decisions made in colours, and whilst they might not all have been perfect for their means, their form more than made up for this in style.

Streamline Moderne would go beyond buildings to cars, and trains. Some of the most famous vintage bugatti’s fall within the realms of Streamline Moderne. It was Mendelssohn who really gave birth to this style. Sadly though the name and the style have become forgotten beauties for the most part.

IG Metall

The IG Metall union the largest union in Germany and they needed a new headquarters, so they went to the preeminent architect of the day, Mendelssohn. He constructed a building that stands between two roads dividing at a 45 degree angle. A building that has three facades, and before the destruction of Berlin in the second world war, complemented the architecture of old.

Mendelssohn, with his incredible knowledge of materials, decided to reflect the function of the IG Metall union. A large amount of brass was used. From the doors to the handrails of the spiral staircase, bronze crafted into smooth lines and shapes rose.

It still stands as it has done since its opening in 1929 despite heavy damage incurred during World War Two and the redesign and rebuilding of the surrounding district. As does Mendelssohn’s other fantastic building of Berlin, the Mossehaus, read about this building in our other blog post here.

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