In the 1950’s, the Barcelona architect Oriol Bohigas considered rebuilding a small Pavilion erected to represent Germany at the Universal Exposition of Barcelona in 1929, which was demolished shortly after the closure of the event by orders from the German Government. While there were many voices requesting its preservation, German authorities turned a deaf ear to the appeals. Years later, the building, which no longer existed, was reviewed extensively by architects from around the world using the original plans, black and white photographs and the testimony of those who had visited it.
Bohigas’s dream became a reality: the Pavilion that once symbolized the progressive and democratic character of the Weimar Republic, built to host the official reception of the German government for King Alfonso XIII of Spain, was eventually rebuilt in 1986. The project, promoted by Bohigas, was entrusted to the architects Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Cristian Cirici and Fernando Ramos, who pledged to ascribe to the original model, both in the design and unique materials.
The Barcelona Pavilion created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is considered one of the four canonical works of modern architecture, along with Gropius’s building for Bauhaus, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoy and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House. An archetypal example of Mies van der Rohe´s maxim “less is more,” the pavilion introduced elements of Japanese traditional architecture, neoplasticism and suprematism.
The then novel concepts of open plan and spatial continuity are explored throughout the formal composition of the structure. Sitting on a rectangular podium covered in travertine marble – in the manner of Roman temples – it is divided into three areas: the reception courtyard, the core and a backyard. The vertical and horizontal components that define these areas are freely arranged, but governed by a rigorous geometric order with utmost precision and expertise. The modern architectural language used in the construction is highlighted through the use of materials such as glass, steel and four types of marble: ancient green from Greece, green from the Alps, Roman travertine and golden African onyx.
In the interior, circumspect and minimalist, we find the iconic Barcelona chairs created by van der Rohe, in collaboration with the designer Lilly Reich. Inspired by the sellas curulis of ancient Roman magistrates, the Barcelona chair—with its structure of polished stainless steel and leather– meant an absolute innovation for its time and is considered a classic representative of 20th century modern furniture design.
In the south courtyard of the German Pavilion, there is a bronze reproduction of Dawn, a sculpture by George Kolbe, whose curved lines contrast with the geometric purity of the structure. The sculpture is brilliantly located on the edge of a small pond, and is reflected on the water as well as on the marble and glass, creating the feeling that it multiplies through the space.
Thanks to the tenacity of a group of enthusiasts who fought for years for the German Pavilion to be rebuilt in Barcelona, thousands of people have been able to enjoy this masterpiece. It is no longer only an object of worship for professionals, but a space where everyone can feel the beauty and serenity it transmits. ■