Saturday, December 8, 2012

Barcelona Pavilion

Barcelona Pavilion Commentary
"The site [Mies van der Rohe] selected [for the German Pavilion in Barcelona] allowed for the transverse passage of visitors from a terrace-like avenue bordering the exhibition palaces to the other attractions. In addition, it afforded fine views of the exposition grounds and of the city of Barcelona. The building had no real program, as that term is understood and used by architects today. It was to be whatever Mies chose to make of it. 

The only function it had to accommodate was a reception for the King and Queen of Spain as they signed the "Golden Book" officially opening the exposition. According to Mies, the furniture designed and fabricated especially for the pavilion, the Barcelona chairs and stools, went unused during the opening ceremony. "To tell you the truth," he remarked, "nobody ever used them."
— David Spaeth. Mies van der Rohe. p63.
"The covered portion of the pavilion, one story high, occupied roughly the north half of the podium. Beneath its flat roof ran the series of interwoven spaces that has, as much as anything else, won the Barcelona Pavilion its immense prestige. The roof rested on walls, or more properly wall planes, placed asymmetrically but always in parallels or perpendiculars, so that they appeared to slide past each other in a space through which the viewer could walk more or less endlessly, without ever being stopped within a cubical area. 
This open plan, with its intimation of an infinite freedom of movement, was at the same time qualified by two rows of equally spaced, cruciform columns that stood in martial formation amid the gliding walls. The columnar arrangement constituted Mies's first use of the grid as an ordering factor in his building, a prefiguration of the monumental regularity that marked the work of his American years."—Franz Schulze in Knoll Internatational exhibition catalog, p3.

"The Barcelona pavilion...was without practical purpose. No functional programme determined or even influenced its appearance. No part of its interior was taken up by exhibits: the building itself was the object on view and the 'exhibition' was an architectural space such as had never been seen. 

The building consisted of walls and columns arranged on a low travertine marble channeled space between separate vertical and horizontal planes. But this time the flow of space was held within clamp-like walls at each end of the podium."
— Martin Pawley, introduction and notes, Yukio Futagawa, photographs. Mies van der Rohe. p15.
"In reality, the Barcelona Pavilion was a patch-up structure. Technically Mies was unable to erect the pavilion as a pure 'Dom-ino' structure; the eight cruciform columns alone could not support the roof and a number of extra columns had to be lodged in the double-skinned marble screens to help carry the load. But this makeshift structure did the job Mies asked of it and the plan remained inviolate. He pursued the idea in his model house at the Berlin Building Exhibition of 1931,..."
— Frank Russell, ed. Mies van der Rohe: European Works. p20.
"Radical rationalist that he is, his designs are governed by a passion for beautiful architecture. He is one of the very few modern architects who has carried its theories beyond a barren functional formula into the plastically beautiful. Material and space disposition are the ingredients with which he gets his effect of elegant serenity. Evincing in his work a love for beautiful materials and textures he emphasizes this predilection."
— Helen Appleton Read. from John Zukowsky, organizer. Mies Reconsidered: His Career, Legacy, and Disciples. p18.
The Creator's Words
"Right from the beginning I had a clear idea of what to do with that pavilion. But nothing was fixed yet, it was still a bit hazy. But then when I visited the showrooms of a marble firm at Hamburg, I said: "Tell me, haven't you got something else, something really beautiful?" I thought of that freestanding wall I had, and so they said: "Well, we have a big block of onyx. But that block is sold—to the North German Lloyd." They want to make big vases from it for the dining room in a new steamer. So I said: 'Listen, let me see it, ' and they at once shouted: 'No, no, no, that can't be done, for Heaven's sake you mustn't touch that marvellous piece." But I said: "Just give me a hammer, will you, and I'll show you how we used to do that at home." So reluctantly they brought a hammer, and they were curious whether I would want to chip away a corner. But no, I hit the block hard just once right in the middle, and off came a thin slab the size of my hand. 'Now go and polish it at once so that I can see it." And so we decided to use onyx. We fixed the quantities and brought the stone."
— David Spaeth "Mies van der Rohe", p62
"For me working in Barcelona was a brilliant moment in my life."
— Mies van der Rohe. from Frank Russell, ed. Mies van der Rohe: European Works. p20.
"Artistic expression is a manifestation of the unity of design and mateial. This once again underlines the necessity fo incorporating works of sculpture (or painting) creatively into the interior setting from the outset. In the great epochs of cultural history this was done by architects as a matter of course and, no doubt, without conscious reflection."
— Mies van der Rohe. from Mies van der Rohe. Less is More. p146.
As part of the1929 International Exposition in Barcelona Spain, the Barcelona Pavilion, designed by Mies van der Rohe, was the display of architecture’s modern movement to the world.  Originally named the German Pavilion, the pavilion was the face of Germany after WWI, emulating the nation’s progressively modern culture that was still rooted in its classical history. Its elegant and sleek design combined with rich natural material presented Mies’ Barcelona Pavilion as a bridge into his future career, as well as architectural modernism.
After several architectural triumphs in Germany, Mies was commissioned to design the German Pavilion for the International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain.  The pavilion was intended to be the face of the German section that would host King Alphonso XIII of Spain and German officials at the inauguration of the exposition.  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.
Situated at the foot of the National Art Museum of Catalonia and Montjuic, the Barcelona Pavilion resides on a narrow site in a quiet tucked away corner secluded from the bustling city streets of Barcelona.  Raised on a plinth of travertine, the Barcelona Pavilion separates itself from it context create atmospheric and experiential effects that seem to occur in a vacuum that dissolves all consciousness of the surrounding city.
The pavilion’s design is based on a formulaic grid system developed by Mies that not only serves as the patterning of the travertine pavers, but it also serves as an underlying framework that the wall systems work within.  By raising the pavilion on a plinth in conjunction with the narrow profile of the site, the Barcelona Pavilion has a low horizontal orientation that is accentuated by the low flat roof that appears to float over both the interior as well as the exterior.
The low stature of the building narrows the visitor’s line of vision forcing one to adjust to the views framed by Mies.  When walking up onto the plinth, one is forced under the low roof plane that captures the adjacent outdoor court as well as the interior moments that induce circulation throughout the pavilion. The interior of the pavilion consists of offset wall places that work with the low roof plane to encourage movement, as well as activate Mies’ architectural promenade where framed views would induce movement through the narrow passage that would open into a larger volume. This cyclical process of moving throughout the pavilion sets in motion a process of discovery and rediscovery during ones experience; always offering up new perspectives and details that were previously unseen.
Every aspect of the Barcelona Pavilion has architectural significance that can be seen at the advent of modern architecture in the 20th Century; however, one of the most important aspects of the pavilion is the roof.  The low profile of the roof appears in elevation as a floating plane above the interior volume.  The appearance of floating gives the volume a sense of weightlessness that fluctuates between enclosure and canopy. The roof structure is supported by eight slender cruciform columns that allow the roof to as effortlessly floating above the volume while freeing up the interior to allow for an open plan.  With the low roof projecting out over the exterior and the openness of the pavilion, there is a blurred spatial demarcation where ht interior becomes and exterior and exterior becomes interior.
 The pavilion is designed as a proportional composition where the interior of the pavilion is juxtaposed to two reflecting pools. The smaller reflecting pool is located directly behind the interior space which allows for light to filter through the interior volume as well illuminate the marble and travertine pavers.  The larger, shallow reflecting pool compliments the volume as it stretches across the rest of the plinth.  Its elegance and sleek lines establish a place of solitude and reflection.
In addition to the design, the materials are what give the Barcelona Pavilion its true architectural essence as well as the ethereal and experiential qualities that the pavilion embodies.  The pavilion meshes the man-made and the natural employing four types of marble, steel, chrome, and glass.  The marble originates from the Swiss Alps and the Mediterranean.  Mies’ implementation of the marble is created through a process of splitting, called broaching, that creates a symmetrical patternization that’s found in the marble.  However, the most used material is the Italian travertine that wraps the plinth and the exterior walls adjacent to the reflecting pool.  When exposed to the sun, the travertine becomes illuminated almost as a secondary light source that dissolves the natural stone and washes the light over the space.  The travertine’s inherent luminous qualities as well as Mies’ seamless employment of the material over the plinth adds to the dissolution of spatial demarcation transforming the pavilion into one continuous volume rather than two separate entities.
In 1930, the original Barcelona Pavilion was dismantled after the International Exposition was over; however; in 1983 a group of Catalan architects began working on rebuilding the pavilion from photographs and what little salvaged drawings that remained.  Today it is open daily and can be seen in the same location as in 1929.
Architect: Mies van der Rohe
Location: Barcelona, Spain Project Year: 1929 Photographs: Greg KristoFlickr User: gandolasFlickr User: wojtek gurnak References: wikiarquitecturagreatbuildings

Here is my final presentation of case study of the Barcelona Pavilion:

 Barcelona Pavilion Case Study

For an analysis of a space as part of Project 1 in Tools and Technology 1 class, I chose the Barcelona Pavilion by Mies Van Der Rohe. Since 1929 when the pavilion was built for the International Exhibition in Spain, it became a magnet of spatial studies for architects everywhere. It was this interest about such small space that caused my intrigue to learn more about it.
First step of understanding the pavilion was to draft its floorplan and section. Since the original plans were in metric and were missing key measurement, converting them into inches while making sure all dimensions were correct became a challenge. At the end though, I was pleased with the results:
Even though it is visually simple floorplan, its complexity comes from the strategic layout of walls. Unforced direction of visitor’s movements throughout the space happens naturally without clear knowledge of the visitor. Walls are not there as bare structural support but rather spatial dividers and “directors” of the space:
Another interesting element Van Der Rohe considered while building the pavilion (in bare 8 months) was his selective choice of materials and colors. Glass, travertine, marble, onyx and steel were his only few choices. As far as colors selection, Van Der Rohe let the natural materials speak for themselves and added only black rug and red curtains in one area of the pavilion which not only contrast with one of the yellow walls but has political statement as well showing German colors. After drafting a floor plan, section and research about the pavilion, the final step was an analysis of core spatial strategies within the space. I chose to portray these strategies through diagrams as they would be the best choice to highlight the unique complexity of the pavilion. Sketching through various option helped me to understand the space even better:
Individual strategies I focused on were circulation, interlocking spaces, space within a space, and materials.
Finished diagrams and sketches:

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