ALEXANDRIA

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe is an icon of the Modern movement known as the international style. It was rebuilt in 1959 to the original design of steel frame with glass and polished stone. The prestigious site allowed transverse passages with exemplary views of the interwoven spaces of the exhibition grounds and the city itself. The structure called for no program except to accommodate the King and Queen of Spain for the exposition. “This open plan, with its intimation of an infinite freedom of movement, was at the same time qualified by two rows of equally spaced, cruciform columns that stood in martial formation amid the gliding walls. The columnar arrangement constituted Mies's first use of the grid as an ordering factor in his building, a prefiguration of the monumental regularity that marked the work of his American years."Franz Schulze The building itself is a part of the exhibit. The furnitures designed by Mies were designated around the wall planes placed asymmetrically in parallels or perpendiculars. As a radical rationalist, he once again devoted the language of International Style: emphasis on volume, regularity and avoidance of applied ornament. "Artistic expression is a manifestation of the unity of design and material. This once again underlines the necessity of incorporating works of sculpture (or painting) creatively into the interior setting from the outset. In the great epochs of cultural history this was done by architects as a matter of course and, no doubt, without conscious reflection." Mies van der Rohe: Less is More
Like the Barcelona Pavilion, the Robie House became one of the most important buildings in the history of American Architecture. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who is one of the first architects to have a style based on a spatial conception of interpreting planes and abstract masses. Like Mies, Wright explored the wall planes emphasizing horizontal lines with low roof that extend out onto the landscape. Contrary to Mies’ “Less is more”, Wright reduced the parts of the house to a minimum. Wright kept the house off the best area of land so it is available to use and be seen. He also eliminated walls to get rid of the “box feeling”. Similar to the elevated Barcelona Pavilion, Wright pulled the basement up out of the ground to raise the other floors up for a better view. Both Wright and Mies eliminated decoration to their design but Wright incorporated the mechanical and electrical systems together with the built-in furniture into his designs. With its sweeping horizontal lines, dramatic overhangs, stretches of art glass windows and open floor plan, the Robie House made it a quintessential Prairie style. This building with its contemporary spaces remains a masterpiece of modern architecture.

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