Station: [253] The Architecture

The negotiations for the construction of a department store in Chemnitz began in 1927. It was Erich Mendelsohn’s third contracted building project following Nuremberg and Stuttgart, but the negotiations were prolonged because Mendelsohn was supposed to transfer the construction management to the company’s in-house construction office. Thus, building didn’t begin until the summer of 1929.  

The ground plan of ferro-concrete structure is shaped like a wedge, or a piece of cake! The exterior design primarily came down to the facade facing the street that consists of alternating wall and lines of windows. Only the ground floor with it entrance doors and the name Schocken above them is completely glass. The five sales floors rise forwards in oriel form and the facade is hung, meaning it appears to be floating above the ground. This impression is created above all by the narrow line of windows immediately above the glazing on the ground floor and the stairwells to the right and left that form a vertical frame. On the three upper floors stepped in a backwards direction, were the offices and workshops of the department store administration department. 

On the wall you will see a historical aerial view of the Schocken department store. The modern-style building sets itself apart from the cityscape. In Mendelsohn, the Schocken brothers employed an architect beholden to the new style of building in which the aesthetic and functional demands should no longer be expressed in its products only, but also in its architecture and goods presentation.

At the opening of the Nuremberg Schocken department store in 1926 Erich Mendelsohn talked about the new Zeitgeist and presented arguments as to why he preferred this sort of architecture: 

„Clarity, because not only a select few, but every mind should be able to understand it. Simplicity because the best solution is always the simplest. […]  Palais facades, decorative entrances and mannequin windows are things of the past...“

Mendelsohn also adhered to this in terms of interior design.  One searched in vain for dividing walls, ornamentation or patterned floor coverings on the sales floors. The whole design was plain and noble classy with low shelves and sales tables, shiny veneered cupboards, leather furniture, glass showcases, mirrors and white milk-glass sphere lamps, while daylight flooded in.

The builder-owner also played a large role in the design and in his speech at the opening of the Department store Salman Schocken paid tribute to his brother Simon with the following words: 

„[…] I am sure my brother Simon was a builder. My brother controlled all the details, all the requirements and all the regulations that come together to create a building. […] more than the construction, it was the interior design […]. Thus in this building […] you won’t find any fitment that has not passed through my brother’s hands.“

As a result of the stores in Nuremberg and in Stuttgart the interior design had become standardised. Mendelsohn had developed an in-house corporate design for the Schocken department stores, which also incorporated posters, brochures and even the clothing of the sales staff. The execution of this however was subject to the Schoken company on-site construction office.