Mies Missing Materiality

20. November 2017
Photo © Adrià Goula
Architects Anna and Eugeni Bach have covered the surfaces of Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion in white vinyl, effectively turning the famous building into a 1:1 scale model of itself.
Mies Missing Materiality is one of the occasional interventions afforded by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe, which has allowed artist Ai Weiwei to fill the pools with milk and coffee, architect Andrés Jaque to unearth objects from the pavilion's basement, and photographer Jordi Bernadó to remove its glass doors, among other temporary acts. Most of the works intervene in one area of the pavilion or draw attention to one aspect of it, but the intervention by Barcelona-based Anna and Eugeni Bach uses the entire pavilion as its canvas. It turns the travertine floors, onyx and marble walls, and even the benches and polished stainless steel columns into surfaces devoid of color, texture, and materiality.

On display for eleven days, the installation turns the pavilion into a critique of the homogenizing Modern architecture that followed from Mies's influential designs, be they in Europe or later in the United States, as well as the black-and-white photos around the 1930s that turned many works of Modern architecture into compositions free of color. ​Mies Missing Materiality also draws attention to the meticulous reconstruction carried out by Ignasi de Solà-Morales and other Spanish architects 57 years after the original pavilion was erected and dismantled as part of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. With the original materials long recycled or sold for scrap, the architects used the pavilion's thorough photo documentation – many of the photos were commissioned by Mies – to best match the original appearance, completing it in 1986 in time for the centennial of Mies's birth.

In the words of Anna and Eugeni Bach:

The Pavilion in Barcelona upon which we act is a reconstruction, a replica so faithful to the original that it is often difficult to remember its true nature. A building that should have been temporary was immortalized first by the written account of the modern movement and later by its own reconstruction.

Turning the Pavilion into a mock-up, with all the surfaces restricted to the same material, as white as it is indeterminate, reveals the building’s representative role—both that of the original, as a national symbol, and that of the replica, by representing the former. For a time, the Pavilion will be the longest-standing 1:1 scale mock-up of the replica of the temporary pavilion in modern architecture.

Mies Missing Materiality is on display at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona from 16 November to 27 November 2017.
The pool with George Kolbe's "Dawn" during the installation of "Mies Missing Materiality" (Photo © Adrià Goula)
The same pool with the installation completed (Photo © Adrià Goula)
Two stone walls in the midst of the pavilion being whited-out (Photo © Adrià Goula)
The completed installation (Photo © Adrià Goula)
The completed installation (Photo © Adrià Goula)

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