Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe | Architecture Analysis

The world’s fairs of the early 20th century had been providing a great opportunity for the dissemination of architectural movements and artistic views. Especially modernist architects benefited greatly from these fairs. One of these architects is the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with the Barcelona Pavilion design. He built this structure to represent Germans at the 1929 International Fair in Barcelona. For this reason, the first and original name of the building, which is the representative face of the Germans at the fair, is the German Pavilion.

The building to be built had to reflect the innovative, modern and powerful situation of the Germans after World War I. The German state gave this task to Mies van der Rohe, who successfully managed the Werkbund Exhibition in 1927. Rohe would be responsible for both the design and construction of the building and the other German structures at the fair for a short period as such a year.

Barcelona Pavilion Architecture Analaysis

Since the architect wanted to reflect the revived spirit and modern identity of the Germans after the war, he wanted to showcase the architecture of Barcelona Pavilion itself rather than designing a special exhibition space inside. In this manner, it became easier to direct and influence the visitors in the fair.

The building forces visitors to enter inside. It directs people through walls and surfaces. Instead of drawing a straight direction, it goes beyond just being a place that protects from external factors by interfering with the orientation of the visitors.

Barcelona Pavilion interior space photography
Interior – ©Dalbera, Flickr

Several important works and sculptures are exhibited inside, such as the Barcelona Pavilion chair designed by Mies. But the main focus of this exhibition place is the modern pavilion building itself.


It is as if all the elements of the structure were dismantled and reformed. The ambiguity between the interior and the exterior, or the uncertainty of where the transition between the two interiors begins and ends, is Mies van der Rohe’s illusion. While experiencing a space in the pavilion, you feel like you are both inside and outside the other spaces. It gives the opportunity to experience more than one place and atmosphere with the least effort. the Barcelona Pavilion is the embodiment of the principle of simultaneity in architecture.

Interior of Mies van der Rohe buildings


Consisting of a single storey, the building has a pretty calm splayed mass. There are 2 main reasons for this. Spreading of the building on a large land in the horizontal plane and having a very low roof on the single-storey space.

Mies van der Rohe uses the walls, eaves and spaces in the pavilion beyond their pure-primary functions. It makes the roof feel like a piece of paper placed on the walls and carriers. The Barcelona Pavilion walls seem to roam freely under the light roof above them.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe minimalist buildings photography
Barcelona Pavilion – ©Gondolas, Flickr

The biggest share in providing this light and peaceful dynamism is undoubtedly the free plan setup, which is among the 5 points of architecture. The most important element to be carried by the structure in the Barcelona Pavilion is the roof looking as if fly in the air. This roof is carried by 8 delicate columns. Thus, the walls were not used as carriers and became the leading actor of spatial experiments.


In order to further strengthen the consistent stance of the design on the cartesian plane, the essence of the project is square and rectangular shapes. The cladding materials chosen to support this systematic are natural stone coatings with joint gaps and standard dimensions. These coatings take the modern and rational stance of the building one step further and complement the vertical and horizontal design elements.

Barcelona Pavilion Statue photography
Barcelona Pavilion – ©Gili Merin

The rectangular geometric form of the building and the landscape, as well as the sharp lines of the facade and interior walls, are in harmony with materials of similar attitude.

Reconstruction of Barcelona Pavilion

Pavilions designed at international fairs are often temporary structures. They are removed shortly after the fair ends. As a matter of fact, the Barcelona Pavilion was demolished less than a year after the fair. Some drawings, traces of foundations and visuals are what are remained from this building.

A Catalan architectural team rebuilt the structure between 1983-86. However, while some critics described the structure as a copy, others saw it as contrived. According to these architectural critics, when a building is rebuilt in the same way, it has no architectural value. On the contrary, structures are valuable as long as they go down in history.

However, the existence of such a special building for modern architecture, even if it is a 1/1 model, and that it is open to visitors is important for architectural tours and researches.

Photography of Barcelona Pavilion among the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe buildings


Various studies have been carried out since the reconstruction of the pavilion in order to keep it the focus of interest and be used actively. One of these is the program called “Interventions” directed by the Mies van der Rohe Foundation. Thanks to this program, invited artists and curators from various fields temporarily change the design of the Barcelona Pavilion with various interferences.

These small interventions include filling the pool with milk and coffee, placing installation artworks, spreading a different smell inside, or removing the glass doors.

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