"Look at my sketch, there is everything in it," Eric Mendelsohn once said, referring to the resemblance between his drawings and his finished works: he believed in an organic unity between drawing and building, a unity of a kind that he also saw between building and site. The distinctive sweeping lines of his drawings were intended to capture the immediate appearance of the whole. Mendelsohn's architectural ideas were shaped in the chaotic climate of Germany in the period around World War I, and most dramatically by his close association with leaders of the Expressionist movement. Even his signature style of rendering was developed during his army service in the war: tracing paper was scarce, so he began to use thumbnail sketches to portray the large complexes of his design imagination.
This early sketch for Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital was made in 1935, the same year Mendelsohn emigrated to Palestine. He was still working out the design, which would go through many more variations. The final complex of buildings, which includes a nursing school and a research institute as well as a hospital, stands on Mount Scopus, overlooking the ancient walled city of Jerusalem and the Moab Mountains. The drawing reveals Mendelsohn's ongoing preoccupation with the plasticity of reinforced concrete, as well as his interest in observation points affording scenic views. As this drawing shows, he was equally concerned with impressive views of the buildings from vantage points below. His consistent choice of exterior perspectives as his primary tools for describing a building, rather than the plans and elevations preferred by most modernist architects, reinforced his vision of the project as an entirety: "My sketches are data, the contour lines of an instantaneous vision. In accordance with their architectural nature, their immediate appearance is that of a whole, and this is how they must be taken."
Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 88.