Essential Architecture-  Berlin

Einsteinturm

architect

Erich Mendelsohn

location

Albert Einstein Science Park in Potsdam, Germany

date

1921

style

Expressionist, Phallic.

construction

brick, covered with stucco

type

astrophysical observatory
 
 
 
 
 
   
The Einstein Tower is an astrophysical observatory in the Albert Einstein Science Park in Potsdam, Germany designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn. It was built for astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich to support experiments and observations to validate Albert Einstein's relativity theory. The building was first conceived around 1917, built from 1920 to 1921 after a fund-raising drive, and became operational in 1924. It is still a working solar observatory today as part of the Astrophysical Institute of Potsdam. Light from the telescope is brought down through the shaft to the basement where the instruments and laboratory are located.

This was one of Mendelsohn's first major projects, completed when a young Richard Neutra was on his staff, and his best-known building.

The exterior was originally conceived in concrete, but due to construction difficulties, much of the building was actually realized in brick, covered with stucco. It underwent a full renovation in 1999, for its 75th anniversary, to correct problems with dampness and decay that had meant decades of repair. It is often cited as one of the few landmarks of expressionist architecture.


According to lore, Mendelsohn took Einstein on a long tour of the completed structure, waiting for some sign of approval. The design, while logical and perfectly sufficient to its purpose, stood out like an "ungainly spaceship" in the suburbs of Potsdam. Einstein said nothing until hours later, during a meeting with the building committee, when he whispered his one-word judgment: "Organic". (Otto Friedrich, Before the Deluge.) Mendelsohn himself said that he had designed it out of some unknown urge, letting it emerge out of "the mystique around Einstein's universe" (Wolf von Eckardt, Erich Mendelsohn.)

links

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