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Barcelona Pavilion - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe



Project Specifications:

Location:

Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 7, 08038 Barcelona, Spain

Design:

Year:

1928-1929

Remodelation Architect:

Ignasi de Sola-Morales, Cristian Cirici and Fernado Ramos.

Category:

Museum and cultural center

 

The German Pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe, was a symbol of Germany's modern architectural movement presented at the International Exhibition in Barcelona in 1929. The Pavilion, which was originally called the German Pavilion but later renamed the Barcelona Pavilion, was used for official receptions hosted by King Alfonso XIII with German authorities. The Pavilion's sleek design, incorporating natural materials, reflected Germany's progression towards modernity following World War I and served as a precursor to Mies' future work in modernist architecture.

Image courtesy by - Gili Merin

Unlike other pavilions at the exposition, Mies understood his pavilion simply as a building and nothing more, it would not house art or sculpture rather the pavilion would be a place of tranquility and escape from the exposition, in effect transforming the pavilion into an inhabitable sculpture.


Despite its temporary nature, the Barcelona Pavilion has become an iconic example of modernist architecture and a defining work of Mies' career. Its simple, yet elegant design and use of materials have made it a significant influence on the development of modern architecture. The Pavilion was demolished after the exhibition, but a replica was later built on the original site in the 1980s. Today, the replica of the Barcelona Pavilion serves as a museum and cultural center, attracting visitors from around the world.

Image courtesy by - Gili Merin
 

Design Philosophy :

Unlike the other pavilions at the exposition, Mies saw his pavilion as simply a building, a place of tranquility where visitors could escape the busy exhibition. It was not intended to exhibit art or sculpture, but rather to be a living sculpture in itself. This pavilion marked an important step in the history of modern architecture as it allowed for the free expression of nascent modernist ideas and the use of new materials and construction techniques. Its sole purpose was to showcase these innovative concepts.

Image courtesy by - Gili Merin

Mies designed the Barcelona Pavilion using a grid system that served as the basis for the travertine pavers and the underlying framework for the wall systems. By placing the Pavilion on a plinth and utilizing the narrow profile of the site, the building has a low, horizontal orientation that is further emphasized by the flat roof that seems to float above both the interior and exterior. The result is a visually striking structure that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.


In the design of the Barcelona Pavilion, Mies employed the concept of a free plan, in which columns and the ceiling serve as the primary means of support, rather than relying on walls for structural support. The floating room concept was also utilized, with some rooms appearing to be suspended by a column or having no physical connection to the foundation, but their weight is transmitted to the main foundation through the walls and pillars supporting the central building.

Image courtesy by - Gili Merin

The Barcelona Pavilion exudes luxury through the use of perpendicular planes in three dimensions. The space is completed by Georg Kolbe's sculptures and Mies' own design, the Barcelona chair, which is a significant achievement in the history of 20th-century furniture design. The red curtain and black carpet, along with the beige marble walls, also contribute to the overall color scheme, which is reminiscent of the German flag.

 

Material & Façade :


In reconstructing the Barcelona Pavilion, They used the same materials as in the original construction in 1929, including glass, steel, reinforced concrete, and four types of marble: Roman travertine, green Alpine marble, ancient green marble from Greece, and doré onyx from Africa. The golden onyx piece in the main space is particularly impressive due to its size, thickness, and colorful pattern, and it also added significantly to the overall cost of the reconstruction. This piece serves as a focal point for visitors, drawing their attention with its beauty and craftsmanship.

Image courtesy by - Gili Merin

Mies implements a separción process called ” pinning ” which creates a symmetric partition, which is already in the material. However, the material used in this case is the Italian travertine that wraps the socket and exterior walls near the water surface. When exposed to the sun, the travertine is illuminated as if it had a secondary light source that dissolves the natural stone and is full of light in the space. These bright qualities inherent in travertine, and the use of material without cracks in the outer socket added to the solution of the territorial demarcation transforming the pavilion into one continuous volume rather than two separate entities.


The glass and steel give the frame and cover of the walls are built with large blocks of marble, which themselves become the “work of art ” pavilion, with its gorgeous colors and patterns. Almost pure minimalist shapes and design features are available. The eight cruciform pillars are covered in chrome. The flat cover was made with reinforced concrete.

Image courtesy by - wikiarquitectura

The use of travertine, with its natural luminosity, and Mies' seamless incorporation of the material over the plinth helps to blur the boundaries between the interior and exterior, creating a sense of unity and continuity rather than two distinct areas. This enhances the overall spatial experience of the Pavilion, making it feel like a single, unified volume.

 

The construction :


The Barcelona Pavilion is characterized by its simplicity and attention to detail. With its exposed structure, the building reveals and conceals various elements, making it difficult to formally define but easy to summarize as a representation of "the fluidity and interconnection of the inner and outer." The Pavilion conveyed a message of liberalism, democracy, and modernity to the world. The outdoor ponds, with their reflective surfaces and black glass bottoms, further enhance the building's overall aesthetic and contribute to its sense of unity and continuity.

Image courtesy by - wikiarquitectura

The Barcelona Pavilion is composed of eight steel pillars in a cross shape supporting a flat roof. A large glass structure and interior walls complement the structure. Mies' grid system, which serves as a pattern for the travertine pavers and an underlying framework for the interior walls, adds to the Pavilion's sense of unity and coherence. By elevating the building on a pedestal and utilizing the narrow site, the Pavilion has a low, horizontal orientation further emphasized by the flat roof that appears to float above both the interior and exterior.

Image courtesy by- wikiarquitectura

This sense of lightness and weightlessness is reinforced by the large roof overhang and the slender steel columns that connect the different levels. The Pavilion's spaces are defined by a set of offset planes and walls that are arranged to create a sense of spatial fluidity. The large windows further contribute to this sense of openness and transparency, reflecting the ideals of freedom and progress that the German Republic sought to embody at the time.

 

Reconstruction :


Between 1983 and 1986, a group of Catalan architects reconstructed the pavilion permanently, based on historical drawings and rediscovered footings on the site. Reconstruction has been a popular tourist destination, but it also has been controversial among architects, critics, and historians. Some have hailed it as a revived masterpiece, some have condemned it as a "fake," and others are ambivalent.


Image courtesy by - wikiarquitectura

"This building is not supposed to exist," asserted Paul Goldberger at the time. During planning, Philip Johnson wondered, "The problem before us is should a dream be realized or not. We have made such a myth of that building. Shouldn’t it be left in the sacred vault of the memory bank?" Architect Lance Hosey has thoroughly documented reactions to the reconstruction, concluding that while the reconstruction is a better physical artifact, the original was an irreplaceable product of its sociopolitical context.[6]

 

Drawings :


 





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