saai | Archive for Architecture and Engineering

Digital Collection Egon Eiermann

Merkur department store (Office Salman Schocken)
1951-1961, Office Salman Schocken 1952

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Merkur department store (Office Salman Schocken)

The plans for Stuttgart's Merkur department store haunted Eiermann for more than a decade. From 1951 he had been working on designs for an addition to the Schocken department store built by Erich Mendelssohn in 1927 /28. In 1952, Eiermann drew up plans for an office for the store's owner, Salman Schocken; the next project was the refurbishment for the existing refreshment hall.

As the old building no langer did justice to changes in technical requirements (escalators, air conditioning, increased throughput of goods), and the parking spaces demanded by the city could no langer be accommodated in an extension, the plan from 1956 on was to demolish it. Until 1957 the assumption was that Mendelsohn's distinctive rounded staircase could be retained. Later, this idea was abandoned. As a part of the new development plans, the cramped traffic situation on Eberhardstrasse was to be improved, too. The department store was finally built between 1959 and 1961, after further alteratians to the plans, as a block that extended from Eberhardstrasse to Breite Strasse, with a three-story underground car park in its confined downtown location.

The transfer of ownership to Helmut Horten in 1953 had led to a change in what was required of the architecture. A uniform façade for all the stores in the group was to serve as an imprint for the group and ensure, as a non-bearing curtain-type wall, the absolute flexibility of the wall behind it. The stone honeycomb façade of the Merkur department store in Duisburg (Loebermann and Rhode, 1958) set a trend, and Horten entrusted several architects with it simultaneously, including Eiermann, in the case of the Stuttgart store.

Eiermann developed a 60 x 60 cm ceramic block with two curved surfaces that cross each other, arranged alternately so as to make a textile impression rather like that of a curtain. The four upper floors (and, on the downhill side of the building, the "ground floor") had a curtain wall of these shaped blocks added to it as a second level that let both light and air through. While in Stuttgart the homogeneous exterior enhanced the block effect of the building, Eiermann developed this type of façade further for the Horten department store in Heidelberg (completed in 1962). There, horizontal U-section iron bars divide the façade into bands the height of each floor, while the corners of the building have vertical section tubes as a trim.

Demolition of Mendelsohn's building gave rise to criticism by both national and international architects. Triggered by students at the Stuttgart faculty of architecture, a debate raged in specialist journals and in the local press about the previous building's historical value. Eiermann stood by his decision in favor of a new building after he had tested the old one for its functional suitability, yet he was later nonetheless to distance himself from the completed building. At the planning stage, which was full of conflict, many decisions were made by the store's in-house construction department without consulting Eiermann, or even against his will–decisions with the implementation of which he did not want his name to be associated. After renewed planning difficulties in the construction of the Heidelberg store, the architect ended his collaboration with the Horten group once and for all.

Friederike Hobel

"Egon Eiermann 1904-1970. Architect and Designer", Ed. Annemarie Jaeggi, Hatje Cantz: Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004, p. 191

Project-specific information

Project Merkur department store (Office Salman Schocken)
Persons involved
  • Egon Eiermann und Robert Hilgers, Architektur
Project period 1951-1961, Office Salman Schocken 1952

Object-specific information

Typology Warenhaus, department stores (buildings)

Site-specific information

Country Deutschland
City Stuttgart