Architect: Andrés Jaque Architects & the Office for Political Innovation
Collaborators: Paola Pardo, Ana Olmedo, Ruggero Agnolutto, Roberto González, Jorge López Conde, William Mondejar, Silvia Rodríguez, Dagmar Stéeova, Paloma Villarmea, el equipo de la Fundació Mies van der Rohe y spread.eu.com (diseño gráfico)
Location: Barcelona, SPAIN
Client: Fundació Mies van der Rohe
PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society is an intervention created by Andrés Jaque at the Barcelona Pavilion, resulting from the research which Jaque has carried out over the last two years, at the invitation of the Fundació Mies van der Rohe and Banc Sabadell Foundation. A significant portion of the items which are safeguarded in the basement upon which the Pavilion was built have been distributed at different locations throughout the Pavilion space. This basement is presented as the Pavilion’s ghost (PHANTOM), which had never drawn the attention of people who came to visit and study the Pavilion, but for which Jaque acknowledges an important role in the emergence of his architecture as a social type of construction. The team responsible for reconstruction of the Pavilion of ’29 thought that the basement would facilitate the control and maintenance of its installations. It also decided that entry should be made difficult so as to avoid its future use as an exhibition space in which Mies and the Pavilion were explained. In the end, the basement has been used to store all of the material witnesses which provide an account of the social fabric involved in a shared project: every day reinterpreting the May morning on which the Pavilion of ’29 was first opened.
The basement, like the portrait of Dorian Grey, contains everything that makes it possible to see the Pavilion as a monumental collective construction. However, it is concealed so as not to diminish the illusion that the product was received directly from an enlightened hand, that of Mies, who worked in Barcelona in 1929. The basement still houses the phantom public: a reference to the well-known text by Walter Lippman The Phantom Public (New Jersey, 1925), from the societies which contribute to creating the Pavilion on a daily basis.
As Mies himself pointed out, architecture is built in such a way that what is visible conforms that which is hidden. The Barcelona Pavilion is an arena of confrontation organized in the form of a two-story building, in which two inter-dependent notions of the political lie in dispute.
The well-lit upper floor revives foundational concepts of the political (in which the extraordinary, origins and essences lead the way for that which is common), while the dark basement was constructed using contingencies and provisional agreements. The upper floor is physically transparent, but it conceals the social pacts which occur inside, to provide access to an experience of everyday incalculability. The lower floor is opaque, yet it is the place where the contracts, experiments and disputes which construct the Pavilion gain transparency. The Pavilion constructs a belief through the way in which its two floors operate: ‘the exceptional emerges in the absence of the ordinary.’ The intervention is based on the suspicion that the recognition and rearticulation of these two spheres can contribute new possibilities in which architecture finds answers to contemporary challenges.
1. When hit by sunlight, the red velvet curtains in the Pavilion’s Carpet Room lose their color, and in the most exposed parts take on a hue which gradually shifts towards brown. The weight of the velvets available in ’29, as well as those in the 80s, ended up tearing out the holders which attached the guide rail to the ceiling. Replacing the faded curtains has made it possible to acquire lighter types of velvet which has delayed the deterioration of the guide rail holders.
However, many believe that by lightening the curtains, one of the Pavilion’s attractive features has been changed, the burdensome movement ofthe curtains filled with momentum, vibrating in the wind. This minor dispute is actually a confrontation oftwo notions about the performative: one phenomenological and another constructive. The same dispute has created a divide between those who see in Mies a direct display ofconstruction logics and those who see in his work an insistence upon the creation ofoverlapping interfaces, in which the invisible is instilled with a certain expressiveness.
2. The Pavilion of’29 has been seen as a test for and antecedent ofthe domestic courtyard-houses which Mies van der Rohe developed in the 30’s. According to the security guards at the Pavilion today, a large number ofthe visitors, once inside, behave as if they were visiting a home. The Pavilion has been a home, too, at least for one night. One morning the guards found a couple sleeping on the floor in the Carpet Room, accompanied by a dog that rested as he was tied to one ofthe Pavilion’s columns. The identity and testimony ofthese people is unknown, because they were immediately removed from the premises.
3. The Pavilion is a material construction, but it is also an institutional project and the testing ground in which innovative formulas for getting civil society involved in the transformation ofthe city ofBarcelona were tested for the first time.
In 1980, then Mayor Narcís Serra named Oriol Bohigas the Delegate ofthe City Government’s Department of Urban Planning and Building, and together they once again set down the path begun in 1957 by Bohigas himself, who managed to get the epistolary support ofMies in rebuilding the Pavilion. They formed a team with Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Cristian Cirici and Fernando Ramos, and created an institutional form ofengineering in which they associated with MoMA, the descendants ofMies van der Rohe and the government ofthe former German Federal Republic to build a framework oflegitimacy to promote international acceptance ofthe reconstruction. However, it is also the project in which getting civil society involved in the construction 01 the new city ofDemocracy was tested. In 1982, Pasqual Maragall replaced Serra and asked the city’s most important businesspeople, at a lunch after a presentation by Solà-Morales, Cirici and Ramos, to provide economic support for the reconstruction project. Two of these businessmen had confirmed their support beforehand and acted as bait to elicit a positive response from the others. A similar request, in which the use ofbait is not known to have occurred, was repeated shortly after to launch Barcelona’s Olympic Candidacy.
4. Different devices used for cleaning the Pavilion.
5.In the construction works, a black methacrylate coating was used on the inside ofthe inner pool. The rapid deterioration ofthis material made its replacement with a tinted glass covering advisable. The remains of the replaced materials have been kept in the basement since then, stored under the position which they held in the inside pool. This is just one ofthe aspects ofthe Pavilion’s construction thal have been managed on a trial and error basis. The Pavilion, far from being an automatic reproduction of what was made in ’29, could be described as a laboratory in which the memories of discarded experienced are recorded in the building’s basement.
6. On the morning ofMay 27, 1929, the Ambassador of Germany spoke the lollowing words at the Pavilion’s opening ceremony: “We would not have been true to ourselves if we had intended to show ourselves in a way diflerent from how we see things in our own home. Our plan has lacked any slogan, but I will allow you to find in it the expression ofour desire to be completely truthful, giving a voice to the spirit ofthe new era, whose symbol is this: Sincerity.”i
The original Pavilion and, in a certain way, its reconstruction, as well, have completed a mission ofrepresentation similar to that performed by flags. Not only because the Carpet Room (black) is reminiscent, in the composition which the carpet forms with the velvet curtains and the leather in the seats, ofthe flag of the Weimar Republic and today’s Germany, but also because its main role has been to instill within experience the desires ofthe societies which promoted them, and to prescribe the conditions oftheir future evolved forms and their inclusion in international contexts.
The Pavilion of’29 was built as a construction which puts visitors in place in the way that the Weimar Republic was ‘seen.’ A way ofseeing which gave expression to those who, through the architecture ofclarity, perspective and luminosity, wished to leave behind “angular, obscure, opulent and encumbered” eras.iiIt isan archilecture of aspiralion and the project of that aspiration.
In 1999, Ignasi de Solà-Morales declared in ABC Cultural that, “The architecture of the past must remain at the service ofthe present.”iiiOn September 27, 1979, the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia published the following: “Arrangements were even made in the years immediately after Mies’ death, which took place in 1969, [ … ] and the offer was made by Mies’ studio in Chicago to cooperate on its reconstruction. However, all those attempts ran up against the apathy expressed towards these undertakings by the old municipal government, which was poorly equipped to understand the value ofarchitecture as a cultural fact.”iv
In an openletter published in Barcelona’s press in 1979, Emili Donato, Daniel Giralt-Miracle, Caries Martí Arís and Jaume Rosell said that, “The reconstruction of the Barcelona Pavilion, above and beyond the work’s exceptional character, holds a symbolic value: rebuilding it may and must be understood as a gesture towards making amends to a city that has fallen victim to destruction and degradation [ … ] We believe that it constitutes one further step in the process ofreassigning value to the identilying symbols ofour urban culture, and at the same time a clear position taken in favor ofanti-anachronistic and provincial architecture.”v. Since it was reconstructed, the flags ofthe Federal Republic ofGermany, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and the European Union have been flown on the Pavilion’s flagstafls.
7.The Pavilion’s original position was studied and debated throughout the reconstruction process. Although it was carefully borne in mind by those responsible lor the reconstruction, the uncertainty was not resolved until the lower parts oftwo ofthe original Pavilion’s pillars were found during the movements ofearth that took place to perform excavation ofthe basement.
8. Different products and tools used by the people who work on cleaning and upkeep of thePavilion.
9. In 1954, Oriol Bohigas wrote an article illustrated with a photograph ofthe inside ofan apartment in one ofthe highrises which Mies van der Rohe built on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, furnished with chairs identical to those he designed íor the Pavilion of’29: “Throughout the history ofthe chair, there is one very important item known around the world as the “Barcelona chair”.vi
At present, the chairs continue to hold appeal lor a large number ofthe Pavilion’s visitors, who regularly take advantage when the security guards are not paying attention to take snapshots sitting in the chairs. It is easy to find a large number ofphotographs ofthis type on the Internet and in social networks. Important scholars who study Mies’ work have spoken ofhis architeclure as the management ofthe frames through which reality is observed, but it is interesting how the use ofsocial networks and media for transmitting images online allows the Pavilion to take an a gradually increasing role as a desirable background for people to show off and send out images ofthemselves. Partially as a result ofthis process, the deterioration ofthe cushions on the chairs requires their replacement from time to time. The replaced cushions are kept in the Pavilion basement.
10. The position ofthe Pavilion of’29 was carefully selected by Mies van der Rohe, who thought ofthe building as a required stopping point on the way to the Poble Espanyol, the attraction which would foreseeably attract the public to the Exposition. The need to create an entrance control for the Pavilion was solved by placing a shrubbery by the lower part ofthe Pavilion. However, a large number ofcats enter the Pavilion on a daily basis, and it is they who continue to use the Pavilion as a thoroughfare during their walks. Many are the local residents who leave dishes full ofcat food in the Pavilion garden, and by doing so they contribute to reinlorcing this use ofthe Pavilion as a priority route for stray cats
11. The Pavilion’s spatial organization, as a passageway to the Poble Espanyol, continues to exist, despite the way in which the entrances and exits have been concentrated at the foundation stairs. Everyday there are many people who attempt to climb directly up to this platform along its main face, ignoring the sign which announces the starting point ofthe visit. The need to create a closingtime for the Pavilion, in a space which is designed to remain open, has been solved by using extendible belts ofa small size which, coupled with the permanent presence ofsurveillance personnel, eflectively reprograms the universal opening promoted by the Pavilion’s architecture. This example makes it possible to detect how the functions ofarchitecture tend to be the result ofassociative states between ensembles ofhuman and non-human devices. In some way, this dispute between technologies in and of itself makes it possible to explain how the critical tradition ofArchitectural Composition has been challenged by the Actor-Network Theory.
12. In the Pavilion of’29, there were no water purification systems for the pools. During the time in which the Pavilion of’29 was used, the water in the pools was constantly replaced usinghe drinking water supply. In the 80’s, awareness about the need to rationalize the use ofwater resources had already taken root in European society. At this time, the water from the pools is treated regularly using a large number al products, such as the salt which is stored in the Pavilion basement.
13. The Pavilion of ’29 had lilypads in its inner pool. The use of products to preserve the water is incompatible with keeping lilypads. However, tests have been carried out to attempt to allow the pool to contain two types al water separated by invisible barriers built using methacrylate boxes. The solution, which provided apparent visual regularity, was made visible as a difference at the time when the lilypads grew and the leaves which carne in contact with the treated water died. The experiment makes it possible to see the difficulty in rnaintaining the final image of Pavilion of ’29 without reconstructing its relational ecology.
14. Broken tinted glass. A comparison ofthe photographs ofthe Pavilion of’29 and those its reconstruction make it possible to detect how the current gray glass panes in the Carpet Room are not as dark as the originals. Despite the great efforts which have been made, it has been impossible to find an industrial supplier ofglass like the original, thereby causing a difference. The updates do not cease in the currentness ofthe way in which the Pavilion of ’29 was explained as the device through which contemporary industrial materials were portrayed. It is precisely the difference which, in this case, preserves and instills the reconstruction with one ofthe most important purposes ofthe Pavilion of’29.
15. Supports on which the travertine slabs rest in the Pavilion floor, contrary to the solution in the Pavilion of’29, in which the stone slabs were placed directly onto a flooring and drained water directly in its external surface.
16. Cleaning products used in the Pavilion on an everyday basis.
17. The cracks in the travertine used in the Pavilion have been left open, This instills it with a great plastic richness, but also contributes to the pieces’ fragility. This fragility, coupled with the tensions resulting from the system ofsupports at specific points, is the reason why repairs are commonly necessary on the pieces, which end up shattering. The desire to avoid replacements with new pieces being translated into a loss ofchromatic homogeneity has caused the Pavilion basement to be used as a storage site for fragments which await repair through the use ofliberglass and resin on the underside of the stone pieces.
18. Testing prior to installing the carpentry work. Although the first stainless steel patents were obtained in 1912, it was not yet available for use in architecture in 1929. The carpentry work in the Pavilion of ’29 was produced using chromed steel. At the time ofits reconstruction, the team in charge decided to produce it in polished, shined stainless steel which, despite changing the appearance, could, because ofits greater durability, be described as a “technically superior”solution. However, according to the testimony ofsome ofthe witnesses ofthe discussions in which this topic was dealt with, the argument wielded to reach the final decisión was that, “This is what Mies would have done if stainless steel had been available to hirn.” At the time when the Pavilion reconstruction was officially opened, someone pointed out the Phillips screws used to join the pillars to the covering, as being an invention that took place after construction ofthe Pavilion of’29. Asked about this subject, one ofthe architects who took part in the reconstruction admits that his mistake occurred due to the believe that Mies would have used star-shaped screws on the crucilorm pillars. This daring assumption allows us to detect how a desire for coherence placed in the figure ofthe ingenious architect Mies does not provide a full explanation for what seem to be effects ofcontingent interactions.
19.Chairs used in cultural activities and at events which contribute to making the Pavilion economically feasible.
20. Stockpiling a piece of marble to be used in the case of future need.
21.Ladders ofdifferent sizes used in cleaning and maintenance tasks.
22. Swinging door replaced due to breakage.
23.Different instruments used to remove the organic material which precipitates on the water in the ponds.
i”The King, Queen and Infantes at the Exposition. Opening ceremony for the Pavilion of Germany,” La Vanguardia, Barcelona, 28.05.29, p. 11.iildem.iiiInterview ofIgnasi de Solá-Morales, ABC Cultural, 02.10.99, p. 49.iv”Reconstruction of the ‘Barcelona’ Pavilion is requested, La Vanguardia, Barcelona, 27.09.79.v”For the reconstruction ofthe Barcelona Pavilion by Mies,” Construcción de la ciudad, Opinion, 2C, No. 14, December 1979, p. 54-56.vi Bohigas, Oriol, Destino, Barcelona, 09.10.54.
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Currently, the office works on projects for Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Art Institute of Chicago, Lafayette Anticipations, CA2M, Real Madrid, Colegio Reggio, and Grupo La Musa.
In 2016, OFFPOLINN received the Frederick Kiesler Prize from the City of Vienna; the office has also been awarded the SILVER LION for Best Research Project at the 14th Venice Biennale and with the Dionisio Hernández Gil Award.
OFFPOLINN’s projects have been the object of solo exhibitions at MoMA, MoMA PS1, MAK Vienna, Princeton University, RED CAT Cal Arts Contemporary Art Center in Los Angeles, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine de Paris, and Tabacalera in Madrid. Its work has been included in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, ZKM (Karlsruhe), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, London Design Museum, Whitechapel Gallery (London), Z33 (Hasselt), the Schweizerisches Architektur Museum (Basel), Lisbon and Oslo architecture triennales, and the Venice, Chicago, Gwanju, and Seoul architecture biennales.
OFFPOLINN’s work has been published in the most important architectural design outlets including A+U, Bauwelt, Domus, El Croquis, The Architectural Review, Abittare, Arquitectura Viva, and in publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and El País.
Andrés Jaque founded the Office for Political Innovation in 2003. He has brought a transectional approach to architectural design; practicing architecture as the intervention on complex composites of relationships, where its agency is negotiated with the agency unfold by other entities.
Andrés Jaque is director of the Advanced Architectural Design Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He has also been visiting professor at Princeton University and The Cooper Union.
Andrés received his PhD in architecture from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid, where he also received his M. Arch. He has been an Alfred Toepfer Stiftung’s Tessenow Stipendiat and Graham Foundation grantee. In 2018 he co-curated Manifesta 12 in Palermo.
His books include Transmaterial Politics (2017), Calculable (2016) PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society (2013), Different Kinds of Water Pouring into a Swimming Pool (2013), Dulces Arenas Cotidianas (2013), Everyday Politics (2011), and Melnikov. 1000 Autos Garage in Paris 1929 (2004). His research work has been included in publications like Perspecta, Log, Thresholds and Volume.