Andrés Jaque on ‘Outing Mies van der Rohe’s Basement’

I appreciated this essay about The Barcelona Pavilion, known as an iconic building of modern architecture. The art installation ‘PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society’ displayed objects and working tools from the pavilion’s basement. The essay discusses this intervention as a way … Continue reading

I appreciated this essay about The Barcelona Pavilion, which is an iconic building of modern architecture. The art installation ‘PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society‘ displayed objects and working tools from the pavilion’s basement. The essay discusses this intervention as a way of enhancing architectural knowledge through mundane things.

outing_mies_basement_1

Image via E-book: Phantom. Mies as Rendered Society (research and drawings: Office forPolitical Innovation. Graphic design: David Lorente and Tomoko Sakamoto) 

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Image via E-bookPhantom. Mies as Rendered Society (photo: Andrés Jaque, 2012) 

Andrés Jaque’s text is about The Barcelona Pavilion, built in 1986 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich as a copy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Repräsentationspavillon des Deutschen Reiches’ for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. It is published as a chapter of Inventing the Social (edited by Noortje Marres, Michael Guggenheim and Alex Wilkie and published by Mattering Press). The book title is the program for the chapter. Jaque is in search of understanding how the pavillon brings innovatively people together, to know Mies and its architecture in new ways.

The pavilion is one of many associates of what he calls the Mies-knowing society. Mies-knowers or Mies-knowing-society members, for Jaque, are enthusiasts and fans of Mies van der Rohe in constant conversation with his architecture.

The chapter has an original focus, it is about the role and the functional importance of its basement and how this space underneath the building became an associate of the Mies-knowing society. The basement is in similar terms an associate of the pavilion, a little similar like the pavilion to the knowing society. However, ignored, unknown to and hidden from the society, its relationsship with the society is more complex than the rest of the building.

In the first part of the chapter we read about:

  • how the pavilion participates in the making of the ‘Mies-knowing society’;
  • the role of the basement in supporting the functioning of the pavilion;
  • the ways the basement and its supporting role is hidden from the public and how the invisibility of the basement is a constitutive feature of the pavilion and its replica condition;
  • how users of the pavilion spot differences between the original and the copy of the pavilion; and
  • how people use the pavilion, who do not belong to the Mies-knowing society.

In the second part of the chapter, Jaque – himself the director of an architectural office – presents the intervention ‘PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society’. PHANTOM exhibited in the pavilion objects and practices that are usually hidden in the basement. The intervention changed the Mies-knowing society through:

  • the ways how various groups incorporated, criticized and ignored the intervention;
  • exhibiting staff members work and a potential focus of criticism of pavilion users; and
  • the Mies-knowing society becoming aware that its own knowledge on modern architectural issues was based on mundane, however, hidden practices (maintenance, storage etc.)

The intervention changed the appreciation of the pavilion. But it did not only have positive effects. With the public display of the basement, the work of cleaning and maintenance stuff became also visible for those who usually do not see it. However, the public did not appreciate work of maintenance staff as important, it was “assessed as known” and not as valuable Mies-knowledge.

Jaque Andrés, 2018, « Outing Mies’ Basement: Designs to Recompose the Barcelona Pavilion’s Societies », Inventing the Social,  N. Marres, M. Guggenheim et A. Wilkie eds., Manchester, Mattering Press, p.149-170.

Download the open source book here.

Author: ignazstrebel.net

Ignaz Strebel is an urban geographer and senior scientist at the University of Lausanne. His research is on the social and material practices that make up and transform urban systems. Using ethnography and audio-visual projects, he currently researches building care work, energy infrastructure services and the transformation capacities of prefabricated buildings.

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