The Barcelona Pavilion, also known as the German Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, as the German national Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. The Pavilion was conceived to accommodate the official reception presided over by King Alphonso XIII of Spain along with the German authorities and used for the official opening of the German section of the exhibition.
The building has become a seminal icon of modernist twentieth-century architecture, comprising symmetry, open-plan spaces, precise proportion and minimalist design. Combined with materials of glass, steel and extravagant marble. The same features of minimalism can be applied to the prestigious furniture specifically designed for the building, among which the iconic Barcelona chair.
The Pavilion was supposed to represent the new Weimar Germany: democratic, culturally progressive, prospering, and thoroughly pacifist; a self-portrait through architecture. The Commissioner, Georg von Schnitzler said it should give "voice to the spirit of a new era". This concept was carried out with the realization of the "Free plan" and the "Floating room".
After rejecting the original site because of aesthetic reasons, Mies agreed to a quiet site at the narrow side of a wide, diagonal axis, where the Pavilion would still offer viewpoints and a route leading to one of the exhibition's main attractions, the "Spanish Village".
The Pavilion was going to be bare, no trade exhibits, just the structure accompanying a single sculpture and purpose-designed furniture (the Barcelona Chair). This lack of accommodation enabled Mies to treat the Pavilion as a continuous space; blurring inside and outside. However, the structure was more of a hybrid style, some of these planes also acted as supports. The entire building rests on a plinth of travertine. A southern U-shaped enclosure, also of travertine, helps form a service annex and a large water basin. The floor slabs of the pavilion project out and over the pool—once again connecting inside and out. Another U-shaped wall on the opposite side of the site also forms a smaller water basin. This is where the statue by Georg Kolbe sits. The roof plates, relatively small, are supported by the chrome-clad, cruciform columns. This gives the impression of a hovering roof.
Mies wanted this building to become "an ideal zone of tranquillity" for the weary visitor, who should be invited into the Pavilion on the way to the next attraction. Since the Pavilion lacked a real exhibition space, the building itself was to become the exhibit. The Pavilion was designed to "block" any passage through the site, rather, one would have to go through the building. Visitors would enter by going up a few stairs, and due to the slightly sloped site, would leave at ground level in the direction of the "Spanish Village". The visitors were not meant to be led in a straight line through the building, but to take continuous turnabouts. The walls not only created space, but also directed visitor's movements. This was achieved by wall surfaces being displaced against each other, running past each other, and creating a space that became narrower or wider.
Another unique feature of this building is the exotic materials. Plates of high-grade stone materials like veneers of Tinos verde antico marble and golden onyx as well as tinted glass of grey, green, white, as well as translucent glass, perform exclusively as spatial dividers.
Dis-assembly and Re-building
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.