As a huge fan of modernist architecture it has been an absolute pleasure to research the El Pabellón Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona
Mies van der Rohe’s Pavilion ‘Original Construction’
Built on Montjuic, the modernist ‘El Pabellón Mies van der Rohe’ otherwise known as the ‘German National Pavilion’ was commissioned by the Weimar Republic and designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) for the 1929 ‘Exposición Internacional de Barcelona’
The Pavilion was ‘a temporary exhibition space’ conceived to accommodate the official reception presided over by King Alfonso XIII of Spain along with the German authorities. Its job was to advertise a new, progressive, democratic and modern Germany, a decade on from the Treaty of Versailles and the carnage of World War I.
A “synthesis of classical form and modern technology” the clean contemporary architecture of the building mixes new materials with classical ones. Set on a travertine plinth it was constructed from four shades of tinted glass, marble, onyx, chromed steel, travertine and for its roof, a thin plane of concrete render over steel.
After the closure of the Exhibition in 1930, the Pavilion was disassembled.
Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Modernist’ design philosophy
“Fundamental to Mies’s design philosophy and one of the driving forces behind his use of glass was the concept of fluid space. He believed that architecture should embody a continuous flow of space, blurring the lines between interior and exterior. The use of glass was essential in making this philosophy a physical reality, and the open spaces created in his column free, glass enclosed spaces such as the Illinois Institute of Technology were seen as revolutionary. The concept of fluid space is further embodied in the design of his Barcelona Pavilion, where movable glass and marble partitions allowed for space to be seen as flexible and independent of the structure itself. Here once again the glass provides enclosure, but does not detract from the architectural idea of a series of perpendicular planes beneath a flat roof”. Archdaily.com: Material Masters: Glass is more with Mies van der Rohe
‘Exposición Internacional de Barcelona’
Some interesting facts and figures related to the exhibition as they were unfolding prior to and around the time of the construction of Mies van der Rohe’s Pavilion?
- Originally planned for 1917, the The ‘Exposición Internacional de Barcelona’ was delayed due to World War I. and eventually took place from 20 May 1929 to 15 January 1930.
- Twenty European nations and Britain along with private organizations from the United States and Japan participated. All of the participants were allocated their own pavilion, most of which were designed by an architect from their own country.
- The principal difficulty of the project was the amount of land required 118 hectares (291.58 acres). In 1914 the Barcelona City Council had only 26 hectares remaining. Using an 1879 law, they resorted to land-expropriation on Montjuic, the hill overlooking the harbor, southwest of the city center, which entailed the resettling of some of the local population.
- The estimated resulting cost of the exhibition is said to be 130 million pesetas (US$25,000,000).
- Used to highlight the city’s further technological progress and increase awareness abroad of modern Catalan industry, it was devoted to three aspects: industry, the sports, and art.
- It was attended by some 200,000 local and foreign visitors [this was a lower number of participants than anticipated which was attributed to the New York stock market crash on the 29th of October 1929] and by many Catalan and European political, economic, and cultural figures.
- The project was an opportunity for many engineers and architects to experiment with new styles and techniques. In terms of architecture, the movement known as noucentisme was consolidated as the emerging replacement for the popular Catalan Modernism triumphed by the likes of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domenech i Montaner.
- Excluding ‘Gaudi’ and ‘Montaner’ much of Barcelona’s prominent and much visited architecture and the cities infrastructure can be attributed to the construction works and technological advances during this period.
Mies van der Rohe’s Pavilion ‘Reconstruction’
In 1980 Oriol Bohigas, as head of the Urban Planning Department at the Barcelona City Council, set the reconstruction project in motion, designating architects Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Cristian Cirici and Fernando Ramos to research, design and supervise the reconstruction of the Pavilion.
The reconstructed building materials used encompass the same ‘characteristics’ as the ones originally employed in 1929 including; Glass, steel and four different kinds of stone (Roman travertine, green Alpine marble, ancient green marble from Greece and golden onyx from the Atlas Mountains).
Work began on the original site in 1983 and the new building was opened in 1986.
Location: Av. Francesc Ferrer I Guardia 7, Parc de Montjuic
Opening Hours: 10:00 to 20:00 daily