Station: [155] Schocken Department Store Stuttgart

This model shows the Schocken Department store in Stuttgart.  The building that was opened in 1928 survived the Second World War with a limited amount of damage, but was demolished in 1959 under international protest because of street widening.

 Along with the Schocken department stores in Nuremberg and Chemnitz, the Schocken department store in Stuttgart is one of the best known of Mendelsohn’s buildings in Germany.  Taking into account the demands of his contractors, Simon and Salman Schocken, Mendelsohn developed a new type of department store, which adhered to all functional necessities required to make the goods the central focus.  With the help of the spectacular facade designs and illumination at night the architecture aimed to attract customers. The interior design was plain and focused only on the goods, nothing was supposed to divert attention from them.

A distinctive feature of the Stuttgart department store building was the glass stairwell tower that invited you to enter the building, while at the same time providing a good view of the bustling customers hurrying up and down. The rounded rows of windows, a typical feature of Mendelsohn’s department stores, were also appealing. They not only allowed optimal lighting of the sales departments, but also an indirect illumination of the building at night.  This was not only novel, but extremely important for the outward effect of the building as well. 

Mendelsohn, who worked on commissions throughout the German Empire, in Norway and in the Soviet Union travelled frequently until he emigrated in 1933.  In 1924 he travelled to New York with the ocean liner and studied the impressive skyscrapers and neon signs there, which impressed him at night. During the day however he found the architectural execution of the buildings with their scaffolding and cables aesthetically misguided. He wanted his buildings in Germany to be an improvement on this, and implemented windowed facades for this purpose. In the dimly lit streets of the time, Mendelsohn’s buildings stood out like points of light. There couldn’t have been a better form of advertising.

The brothers Simon and Salman Schocken met Mendelsohn in the mid 1920s. They had founded their department store company, Schocken KG in Zwickau and commissioned Mendelsohn for department store buildings in Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Chemnitz.  You can find out more about the history of the Schocken company and particularily the Schocken department store Chemnitz in the second-floor bow front exhibition.

The location of the Stuttgart department store in the old part of the town and the resulting complicated building regulations required numerous sketches and designs that Mendelsohn completed to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  The model building was executed in the most modern steel skeleton technique, which was also used in industrial architecture. This met the Schocken brothers’ expectations, who envisaged a department store for industrially mass-produced goods.