Park Synagogue (1950)
Erich Mendelsohn, Architect
3300 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
Visited June 1, 2011
While studying architecture in College, Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower in Potsdam (1917-21) was always a prime example of Expressionist Architecture in the books and lectures. I also vaguely remember images of a hat factory in Germany, but other than that I was not familiar with any other buildings by Mendelsohn. Doing some initial roadtrip research on notable buildings in northern Ohio, I was shocked to find a Synagogue in Cleveland Heights designed by “Eric Mendelsohn”. I did a little more research and found out it was the same “Erich Mendelsohn” that designed the Einstein Tower (he shortened his surname to “Eric” while in England in the 1930’s). Mendelsohn had moved to the UK in 1933 in reaction to the rise of antisemitism in Germany. He then moved to the United States in 1941 and taught at the University of California Berkeley, and lived in the USA until his death in 1953.
Well upon this discovery, I had to visit the Park Synagogue to see what Eric has been up to while in the USA.
While lacking the dramatic curving expressionist form of his Einstein Tower, the large copper clad dome and the light tan brick composition has a dignified presence. The circular shape of the dome is repeated in the porthole windows and planter walls in other parts of the complex. The main building is situated in the side of a hill allowing for the lower level on the northwest side to extend out beyond the footprint of the dome and open out to the lawn. I was a little disappointed that the building design was not as daring as Mendelsohn’s early work, but left satisfied with his mature work.