Peter Downsbrough’s intervention titled “AND/AS HERE PLACE SET THE THEN” for the Barcelona Pavilion can be considered fortuitous. Here, two seemingly different disciplines, art and architecture, meet to share an equally sparse, austere yet engaging vocabulary. Mies van der Rohe’s iconic masterpiece, a landmark of Modernism, was built during a decade in which his ground-breaking architecture literally surpassed the ordinary. To reach this conclusion, all one needs to do is take a look around, which is exactly what the artist has done.
In comparison to the Palau Nacional de Montjuïc, built in 1929 in an eclectic, academic and imposing Italian Style reminiscent of the St. Peter’s basilica, and the most prominent construction erected for the 21. Barcelona International Exposition, Mies’ German Pavilion looks like a mere gesture, but an outstanding and thought-provoking one. A gesture picked up and carried further by Peter Downsbrough’s intervention.
The seven discreetly inserted words – verbs, adverbs and prepositions – interact in a subtle way with the constructive logic and spatial freedom of the Pavilion. They invite the visitor into a greater scenario of which SET – in the reflecting pool next to Georg Kolbe’s figure – could be the architectural abstraction that enhances our awareness of our environment and PLACE.