Tuesday, October 18, 2011

“Einsteinturm” -Erich Mendelsohn

The “Einsteinturm” in Potsdam, Germany, is the first important building designed by the famous architect Erich Mendelsohn. It was planned and built in the years 1919 to 1924, the main part was finished in 1921. The inner part of the tower houses a solar observatory. It is now part of Potsdam Science Park and continues to serve as a center of astronomical research. The Tower in Potsdam, near Berlin is considered a key Expressionist building - its curved, organic forms depart from all traditional expectations of what a tower should look like.

The building attracted considerable attention, particularly because of the plastic treatment of form, which made the seven-story tower seem to flow upward from its rounded base to its domed observatory. This structure typifies his interest in an architecture of abstract, sculptural expressionism.
The Einstein Tower is an important building from the German expressionist period of the early 20th century. The building is a prominent example of expressionist architecture but it also has elements of Art Nouveau. Albert Einstein called the scientific building “organic!”. In Mendelsohn’s style, the complex aspects of modern technology, mathematics, and physics are represented by intricate winding shapes and elegantly bending curves.

During the Modernist period following the Art Nouveau movement, natural form and amorphous space took the backseat to logical form and abstract space. Even during this era when most architects built minimalist rectilinear forms the amorphous thread of architecture resurfaced in the works of Eric Mendelsohn.
When he designed the Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Mendelsohn broke from the architectural style of the time to create an expressively amorphous building. To sculpt the form of the building, Mendelsohn chose a combination of pre-cast concrete and load bearing masonry. Unlike the highly decorated buildings of the Art Nouveau period the details of the tower are executed to suppress materiality and to allow the abstract form of the building to speak for itself. The concrete and masonry are treated similarly with a white veneer to disallow differentiation between the components, forcing one to viewthe building as a whole. Like most modernist buildings the form of the tower has a machine-like quality, reminiscent of an ocean liner or cruise ship. The shape of the building’s fenestration has a relatively linear form, but an amorphous flourish is carved into the thick walls around each penetration. Straight lines are all but non-existent, and in most places the skin of the building curves in two directions. While modern in its detailing, this building truly is an amorphous masterpiece.
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