Barcelona Pavilion - 1929

Updated: Jun 19


Plan of the Barcelona Pavilion 1929

This building, designed and built by Mies van de Rohe and Lilly Reich, was intended as the German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition in 1929. It was built with the materials and construction techniques for it to last 6 months. It ended up becoming one of the most important buildings in architectural history.


Mies design for the pavilion was based on the premise that it would be the face of the German section in the exposition. It was not intended to be a place to show any art or display any exhibitions, simply a place to meet and relax.


External view of the 1986 reconstruction of the Barcelona Pavilion

Concept and Design


The brief for the building was for the space to function as an ambassadorial meeting area and to show Germany as a modern, open and forward looking nation, wanting to distance itself from its imperialist past, the pavilion shows this in abundance compared to standard architectural forms of the time.


Standard building design that Mies had been working on consisted of dwellings with bedrooms bathrooms etc, this concept had no need for these, so the pavilions design could allow for a continuous space with interchange between inside and outside form.


One of its notable feature was the roof slab designed to appear to float above the rest of the structure. This was achieved by using 8 load bearing columns in a steel crisscross with an outer shield of shining chrome. Use of this technique also allowed the internal walls to be non weight bearing allowing the walls to be constructed from marble and glass giving the internal space clarity and cleanness .



Internal view showing internal variations of the use of marble in the Barcelona Pavilion

The entire pavilion is raised off from the ground on a podium allowing for a single platform to emphasize the structure away from its surroundings.


Throughout the buildings construction, the materials that have been used were chosen by Mies van der Rohe to reflect and contrast different pigments of colour and reflective light, the marble varies in different tones of greens, pale blues, autumn browns, reflective glass and chrome columns.


Two shallow pools of water lie at each end the pavilion, the larger of the two pools reflect the size and shape of the floating roof giving balance to the structures length and allows an equidistant flow between outside and inside space.


Reconstruction


After the Exposition was over the pavilion was taken down, but it continued to represent a significant design for many architects and was not forgotten.


Eventually the Barcelona authorities commissioned the original site of the pavilion to be reconstructed, a group of Catalan architects were chosen and work started in 1983 and was completed in 1986. It has become a monument to modernism.

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© 2017 Alec Boreham