Station: [157] De La Warr-Pavillon, Bexhill-On-Sea

This model shows the first welded steel-framed building in Great Britain. The spa building, that has been restored over the past few years, was constructed in Bexhill-on-Sea on  Englands southcoast. It was originally intended to be part of an amusement centre with hotel complex, cinema and swimming pool. The mayor of Bexhill, Earl De la Warr, put the contract out to tender. The building was intended to draw more guests from London down to the seaside town.

Erich Mendelsohn, who had emigrated to England via Amsterdam in 1933 made a bid for the tender. In collaboration with architect and designer Serge Chermayeff, who was also living in England at the time, he won first prize. The spa building was created with ballroom, restaurant, library and lecture hall.   The windowed front on the south side of the building provides a great view of the sea. The auditorium on the left-hand side is almost completely enclosed and the glass-fronted stairwell, which is illuminated at night, connects the two parts of the building to one another. 

Mendelsohn’s circle of British colleagues gave him a warm welcome and together with Serge Chermayeff he founded a new office in England and some of his Berlin employees joint him there. Five years later in 1938 Mendelsohn accepted British citizenship, called himself Eric and systematically wrote everything in English from 1941 onwards.

 However, Mendelsohn never felt completely happy there. England was more conservative and his modern buildings were perceived as foreign objects.  In a letter to his friend Oskar Beyer dating from 1936 he wrote:

„After what I have experienced here since 1914 I mistrust Europe to the highest degree. I am as foreign to its superior civilisation as I am to its social divisions.  I hate it, because despite all accolades, I am regarded as a stranger.”

 Even though Mendelsohn was drawn into the war for Germany, as a Jew he was excluded.  He perceived the danger of a further war early on and knew what effects war had. The severity of the signs are apparent in a letter he wrote to Luise dated 29 June 1939:

„ It is really only just eight days since I arrived here and I can’t stop thinking about how I could make it possible to return to you as fast as I can. Political events here are very threatening and they are causing me to plan my departure from Marseille on as early as 6th July.

In the summer of the same year the family moved to Jerusalem.  Mendelsohn had had a branch of his business there since 1935 from which he worked on contracts in the British mandated territory of Palestine. His office was located in an old Arabian windmill, which from the moment they moved, also served as the family’s living accommodation.