Barcelona Pavilion, Meditations

The fact that here for the first time the Weimar Republic was given an opportunity to present itself outside its own borders as an equal partner within the community of nations explains the ambitious expectation officially accorded the project. Ten years after the end of the war the image of Germany as a presumptuously conservative state characterized by self-glorifying illusions of empire and a pathetic reverence for its Kaiser was still widespread abroad. The young democracy wished to counter this with a restrained expression of its progressiveness and distinctly international orientation. The government sought a new means of expression, untainted by historical allusions.

Tegethoff

That project was Mies van der Rohe’s pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition, 1929, designed to put a new face on Germany, an open look on the world.

can only guess how visitors might have received the Mies construction, the pavilion set off to the side of the ceremonial main axis of the fair, away from the rising pomp and elaboration of the other buildings, their articulation of past traditions, of local variations, those bearing assumptions that had conditioned the attendees’ expectations all their lives.

Asymmetric, low lying, simple, only a few parts, close to nothing, really; surrounded by, placed within, beneath, not commanding the green life ascending the hill behind; its roof flat, not pitched, quiet planes suspended beneath an expanding sky—maybe it startled, perhaps it shocked, likely it perplexed. Yet the pavilion has completeness and composure, and its overall aspect is serene. And there is nothing difficult about the Barcelona Pavilion. Rather it goes against assumptions whose difficulty has been attenuated by use, by familiarity, by forgetting, by repression. It challenges more with what it is not as with what it is, raising questions about past assumptions, about what assumptions might take their place.

Some eight years later they would have seen the German pavilion opposed to the Soviet at the International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris, 1937, when we were more accustomed to the modern, when the repressed had come to the fore. Both are modern, or modernish, Boris Iofan’s Soviet design somewhat streamlined, Albert Speer’s for the Germans simple and direct, though showing faint strains of classicism stretched and pushed. Neither is especially distinguished architecturally, and functionally, from the exterior, they exist largely as podiums for symbols, the giant figures lifting the Soviet hammer and sickle, triumphant, the stiff eagle perched atop a lofty tower, braced and poised, the National Socialist take on the Reichsadler, the German imperial eagle, a figure that traces its roots to the Holy Roman Empire and back to Roman legions. History has reasserted itself and is in conflict, one a perception of a tradition, of culture, of land, of race, resurrected and transformed, the other a theory of historical process, active, inexorable, liberating, materially transcending customs and class and borders. Visitors were put into the position of taking sides in a world divided. I wonder if they saw what was coming.

At the base of the German pavilion, flanking the entrance, stood two statues by Josef Thorak, Comrades

and The Family, two triads of figures muscular, brooding, monstrous, really, injured and defensive, more defiant than proud, standing tight together, unified by compression, condensers storing energy that cannot be held much longer. They do not look at us but over.

Open and flowing, the man and woman in Vera Mukhina’s Worker and Collective Farm Woman, more confident than hopeful, their assurance, their unity determined by their collective motion forward, by the tools they raise and join, the perceived process, an idea of progress. They do not look at us, either, but beyond.

Mies’s pavilion had a statue as well, a single figure, Georg Kolbe’s Dawn—a graceful, demure woman rising, unwinding into a posture that has not reached resolution, not hopeful, not anything, not anything yet, just waking, still not looking at us but down, but who will raise her face, her eyes and compose herself for what the day might bring.

Economic collapse, world depression, dislocation, realignment, Kristallnacht, Stalin purges, the non-aggression pact between the Soviets and Germans, the carving up of Poland, another war, the Holocaust tens of millions dead—in this light Dawn appears to be cowering.

Text and credits coming. . . .

So much to sort out, unresolved, this era, Depression/war, will raise questions about symbols, ideas, how we stand in the world, what we believe, what we think we believe, whether we believe anything or not ideas How account for the disparity of symbols, of ideas, distance between thought and action, how we stood in the world, where we stand, if there is anything to stand on. How account for divergence of idea and behavior. But time has put much behind, we have moved on

Abstractions, Expo 67, future, abstract—of what?

(What assumptions take their place, above) Recent history, our government agents and representatives hire body guards, etc. Traditional no traditions, distant distorted, cf. Thorak, ideas, flighty, fleeing, authoritarian around the world, Whether

Signs, what is coming as then

I wonder if we see what is coming (above Like Dawn, I am cowering. I remain a tourist.

So Barcelona Pavilion, on table, reflect, set up meditations. I don’t think I will conclude anything.

Tradition ironic, spare, further away.

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Now, the virtual, the ethereal

https://archinect.com/news/article/150300901/big-unveils-designs-for-vice-s-new-virtual-headquarters-viceverse

commercial and virtual, ethereal

The present and me Me and history and Dawn, I remain a tourist.

wonder if we see coming, cf. them 1929

BP composure, complexity, relaxed as stance to self and world

But the pavilion itself lasted eight months. After the exhibition it was dismantled, its steel sold, its marble returned to the supplier, likely used elsewhere. Any plan of reassembling it in Germany was shelved because of economic turmoil. Dawn elsewhere?

Pavilion only eight months, dismantled. Market crash, depression, disarray and rise of power, History, BP x months dismantled, parts dispersed, Future Kolbe awakes to, crash, worldwide depression, Non-Aggression Pact, carving up of Poland, Stalin purges, Holocaust, millions dead. In this context, Dawn is cowering.

Note how received, special place, reduces to influence, relegates to past, but this history past, it transcends

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See photographs by Cemal Emden:

 

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