Light and line.
For a temporary structure, the Barcelona Pavilion caused a permanent shift in architectural thinking. From the moment it existed, style and architecture would never be the same again.
Created by Mies van der Rohe to promote a new and modern Germany at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, the Pavilion was a revelation of clean linear forms. Architecture at that time was still dominated by classical shapes with grandiose embellishments. The Pavilion gave a glimpse of a new aesthetic. One where space and light and the rigour of geometry were the focus. Quietly ignored at the time – dismissed as an abstract exhibition piece – it stood for only seven months before being torn down.
In the decades after it was destroyed, both van der Rohe’s reputation and that of the lost Pavilion grew in stature. In its absence, the building took on a mythical status, promoted by a new, exciting art form. Photography.
Thirteen photographic master prints existed of the Pavilion – the Berliner Bild-Bericht prints – and, apart from a few drawings, were the only visual record of the structure. The prints themselves became iconic and were widely reproduced, keeping the idea of the building in the forefront of modern architectural thinking.
Although the prints and architectural ideals were beautiful, the building itself didn’t exist anymore to experience physically – and the memories of those who had actually walked around it were fading. The Pavilion was in danger of only ever remaining an abstract idea.
In 1980 a push to reconstruct it began with work starting in 1983. Parts of the original site foundations were uncovered and building materials were sourced with the provenance of the originals – quite a task as they included ancient Greek marble and onyx from the Atlas mountains. Drawings were researched, the Berliner Bild-Bericht prints themselves were used as reference and work was finally finished in 1986.
To experience the Pavilion as a building rather than a photograph is essential for anyone with an interest in design and architecture. The long lines and sharp shadows from the Barcelona sun are hard and graphic, softened with light from the shallow pebble pool bouncing on the hot surfaces. The form may be stark and geometric but, inside, the beautiful materials reflect each other, complex but calm and ever changing as the sun shifts. Light and line, beautiful in three dimentions as well as two. MDKtm