Station: [159] Schocken Villa, Jerusalem

The collaboration between Erich Mendelsohn and Salman Schocken the Jewish businessman, who had also emigrated, resumed in the 1930s. At that time Mendelsohn was still active in England and Palestine and Schocken commissioned him to design his private house in Rehavia, an area of Jerusalem. Schocken envisaged it being something like Mendelsohn’s house on Rupenhorn in Berlin. Despite this, the different climate had to be taken into account and the two buildings do have a certain similarity in form and character, especially in the front terraces. Like the pergolas, the narrow doors and windows in Schocken’s house are to protect it from the heat of the sun. 

Mendelsohn carefully observed and felt his way into the country, into its nature and its architectural traditions and with this, unlike new buildings designed by other architects who often made copies of buildings in their homeland, created a new form of architecture for Palestine. The Schocken Villa was constructed from 1935 to 1938 using concrete blocks, but had to be clad in Jerusalem sandstone to conform to building regulations. 

The Schocken Villa in Jerusalem also became a total work of art: Mendelsohn didn’t only design the building, but the interior furnishings and garden as well. He also supplied garden-care guidelines, advising the owners to fill the birdbath with water at all times in order to attract birds into the garden. The house reminded Schocken’s grandchildren more of a youth hostel or barracks however, because of the regular room arrangement and long hall.

While the house was being built Schocken also had Mendelsohn construct a library. The Schocken library stands in close vicinity to the Schocken Villa and you can look at a model of it on the third floor bow front exhibition.  

Growing nationalism, an Arabian uprising and an imposed building ban in Palestine soon made the Mendelsohns’ lives difficult. In addition, Erich became the object of increasing criticism from work colleagues in Tel Aviv. When German troops under General Rommel marched into Egypt in 1941, the threat of war was also palpable in Palestine. Erich and Luise decided to leave the country and went to the USA in 1941.