January 07: bulldozers in Barcelona

2012/01/07 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1930 the German Pavilion by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) was demolished.

The pavilion marked the entrance to the German portion of the International Exhibition in Barcelona, which had opened on January 7 of the previous year.  You can think of it as a very elaborate threshold, or maybe Mies’ interpretation of a triumphal arch.  Like most exhibition buildings, it was designed to be temporary, and no one argued for its preservation, as they did for other fair buildings that, designed in more traditional Spanish styles, were maintained on other parts of the fairgrounds.  Although conceived as simple panels, planes and lines, it must not have been all that simple to de-construct, since Mies is known for choosing weighty, substantial stone (even if those panels are thin, they are very large veneer stones) and exacting craftsmanship to snap his buildings together.  The Pavilion remains one of architectural history’s great mysteries, since it was packed up and put on a train headed to Berlin–but it never got there.  One wonders if an aging Nazi in North Africa is right now today enjoying an Weißbier on the terrace.

The site remained vacant until 1986, when the local government rebuilt it to the exacting details that could be culled from period drawings and photographs.  It would appear that the civic leaders of Barcelona had realized that much of their tourism industry was the result of architecture geeks making the trek, primarily, to see the primary works of Gaudí, and in preparation for the 1992 Olympics.  The German Pavilion (Mies would not like for you to call it the “Barcelona Pavilion”–don’t do that) remains a point of pilgrimage for architecture devotees, a kind of temple that is less of a sacred site among locals, as witnessed by the prevalence of juice-box-sized sangria boxes strewn about the site on a Sunday morning.

Image: the German Pavilion, Barcelona, with sangria boxes (by Clio)

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You are currently reading January 07: bulldozers in Barcelona at Clio’s Calendar: Daily Musings on Architectural History.

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