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1929. The Barcelona Pavilion

was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as the German National Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, held on Montjuïc.

The Barcelona Pavilion, a work emblematic of the Modern Movement, has been exhaustively studied and interpreted as well as having inspired the oeuvre of several generations of architects. It was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) as the German national pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. Built from glass, steel and different kinds of marble, the Pavilion was conceived to accommodate the official reception presided over by King Alphonso XIII of Spain along with the German authorities.

After the closure of the Exhibition, the Pavilion was disassembled in 1930. As time went by, it became a key point of reference not only in Mies van der Rohe's own career but also in twentieth-century architecture as a whole. Given the significance and reputation of the Pavilion, thoughts turned towards its possible reconstruction.

In 1980 Oriol Bohigas, as head of the Urban Planning Department at the Barcelona City Council, set the project in motion, designating architects Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Cristian Cirici and Fernando Ramos to research, design and supervise the reconstruction of the Pavilion.

Work began in 1983 and the new building was opened on its original site in 1986.

The materials
Glass, steel and four different kinds of marble (Roman travertine, green Alpine marble, ancient green marble from Greece and golden onyx from the Atlas Mountains) were used for the reconstruction, all of the same characteristics and provenance as the ones originally employed by Mies in 1929.

Mies van der Rohe's originality in the use of materials lay not so much in novelty as in the ideal of modernity they expressed through the rigour of their geometry, the precision of the pieces and the clarity of their assembly.


The Barcelona chair
Mies van der Rohe designed a chair, especially for the Pavilion, consisting of a leatherupholstered metallic profile that over the years has become an icon of modern design. To such an extent, in fact, that the Barcelona chair is still manufactured and marketed today.


Georg Kolbe's sculpture
The sculpture is a bronze reproduction of the piece entitled Alba (Dawn) by Georg Kolbe, a contemporary of Mies van der Rohe's. Masterfully placed at one end of the small pond, the sculpture is reflected not only in the water but also in the marble and glass, thereby creating the sensation that it is multiplied in space, while its curves contrast with the geometrical purity of the building.

 

Plane of Barcelona Pavilion



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Mies van der Rohe - biographical outline

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born on March 27 1886 in Aachen, the son of Jakob Mies (a dealer in marble) and Amalia Rohe. In 1913, he moved with his wife Ada Bruhn to Werder (on the outskirts of Berlin). There his daughters Marianne and Waltrani were born, followed some time later by Dorotea, who would subsequently change her name to Georgia. Until World War I, Mies's social and professional relations had been with well-to-do families, but after 1918 everything changed: he separated from his family and, through Hans Richter, came into contact with the contemporary avant-garde, particularly Van Doesburg, Man Ray, Hilberseimer, Walter
Benjamin and Raoul Hausmann.

During his participation in the Weissenhof housing exhibition at Stuttgart, between 1925 and 1927, Mies established a relationship with interior designer Lilly Reich that was to last until 1939. They worked together on the Glassraum (glass room) for the 1927 Stuttgart exhibition, on the Barcelona Pavilion, on the Tugendhat house in Brno between 1928 and 1930 and on the house they presented at the 1931 Berlin exhibition.
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