Thursday, November 27, 2008

Germany -- Forgotten Jewish Modernist Architects and Their Creations

Here's a link to a terrific web site about Jewish modernist architects in Germany and their work, linked to a publication as the Pentagram Papers 37. It's based on the work of the late Haifa-born architect and scholar Myra Warhaftig, who published extensive material about them in her book, German Jewish Architects Before and After 1933: The Lexicon.

Little is known anymore about the more than 450 Jewish architects who were active in Germany before 1933 -- in November of that year, Jews were banned from the state-run artists guild, membership in which was mandatory in order for an architect to work. The web site examines 43 of them, providing biographical information and posting pictures of some of their buildings, many of which are still standing.

Another web site devoted to these architects also arranges walking tours to some of their buildings.

Warhaftig died in March at the age of 78 - see her obituary here, and also an article in

“The Jewish architect wanted to show his achievement in the forefront, and to create a new form of building that people would accept,” she told the author of the article, David Sokol.

“Berlin was a living architecture exhibition,” Warhaftig said of the interwar period. “After Weimar, Berlin was flourishing culturally. Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and other modernists were looking for a peaceful and social world, and wished to express their ideas in architecture. I think the majority of Jewish architects chose to settle in Berlin to prove that anti-Semitism would no longer play a role in their lives.”
Jewish architects were active in the modernist movement in many countries.

In the interwar period several synagogues were designed or remodeled in the modernist style by Jewish or non-Jewish architects.

These include the synagogue currently in use in Brno, Czech Republic (designed by Otto Eisler in the 1930s - you can read my article about modernist architecture in Brno in general by clicking here), that in Zilina, Slovakia (built in 1929-1931 and designed by the Berlin architect Peter Behrens), the remodeled synagogue in the Smichov district of Prague (built in 1863, remodeled in modernist/Functionalist style in 1931 by Leopold Ehrmann), and the synagogue currently in use in Rijeka, Croatia (built in 1928 and designed by Gyozo Angyal and Pietro Fabbro).

Synagogue in Smichov district of Prague, 2008. Now the archive of the Prague Jewish Museum. Photo (c) R. E. Gruber

1 comment:

  1. On some of Jewish Modernist architects mentioned on that site there is more scholarship. For instance, on Wilhelm Zeev Haller see this: