CENTRALA. Nenúfars blancs / White waterlilies - Fundació Mies van der Rohe

CENTRALA. Nenúfars blancs / White waterlilies

The installation reintroduces a constellation of waterlilies that once inhabited the larger pool of the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion.

The project adds a finishing touch to the 1986 reconstruction of the iconic design by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. A cluster of water plants, visible in photos from 1929 and recalled by visitors at the time, have been long overlooked by the history of design. The intervention by CENTRALA, rather than offering a faithful reconstruction, contemplates the richness of aquatic botany and its relation to architecture.

The water plants – present also in other Mies van der Rohe and Reich’s projects from the 1920s and 1930s – once formed a frequent component of architectural compositions. Used by architects and landscape designers, including Roberto Burle Marx, Isamu Noguchi, Gio Ponti, Carlo Scarpa and Pietro Porcinai, they blossomed especially during the world’s fairs. Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace at the 1851 London’s Great Exhibition, with its structure inspired by a leaf of Victoria amazonica, and Joseph Bury Latour-Marliac’s presentation of hybrid species that enraptured Claude Monet at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, created a long-lasting relationship between aquatic botany and international exhibitions that included the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. Yet nowadays, the waterlilies have disappeared from most of their former architectural settings. The installation at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion intends to bring them back to the architectural imagination.

The current composition of the pool includes several ornamental waterlilies: the Nymphaea ‘Walter Pagels’ (which adapts to very shallow water), the Nymphaea ‘Marliacea Chromatella Empordà’ and the Nymphaea ‘Trudy Slocum’ (which flowers at night). There are also native white waterlilies (Nymphaea alba), among which there is a specimen which was obtained in the project to recover the last wild waterlilies of Catalonia from the Delta de l’Ebre. As an innovation in aquatic landscaping, some native submerged plants have also been placed: the Potamogeton natans (which is an endangered species in Catalonia), the Potamogeton coloratus, or the Ceratophyllum demersum and Zannichellia palustris. Various arthropods have also been released into the pool, such as the Notonecta sp., which live off mosquito larvae, or zooplankton (daphnia and copepods), which feed on microscopic algae and help keep the water clear. The new image of the pool, in line with naturalistic gardening applied to water, contributes to current debates about renaturalisation, the design of urban microclimates and the role of artificial pools to act as a Noah’s Ark for ex-situ aquatic biodiversity conservation, so threatened in our country. It also encourages new readings of the iconic Pavilion, as the pool has ceased to be a reflective flat surface and now forms part of the abstract structure of the building. It also provides a small ecosystem in line with the rhythms of the nature.

The ecosystem of the Pavilion has been little researched. Andrés Jaque’s intervention, ‘’PHANTOM: Mies as Rendered Society’’, together with the most extensive research of Spyros Papapetros in his work ‘’In tangent with the structure of plant growth’’, published in Mies van der Rohe. Barcelona 1929 have provided us with an immersion in the ecology of the Pavilion.


Authors: CENTRALA (Małgorzata Kuciewicz, Simone De Iacobis)
Curator: Aleksandra Kędziorek
In collaboration with: Polish Institute of Culture
Curator Fundació Mies van der Rohe: Ivan Blasi
Project coordinator: Adriana Mas
Barcelona Pavilion management: Víctor Sanchez
Gardener: Ruth Castilla
Aquatic botany: Viver Tres Turons (Carles Palau)
Implementation of plants: Viver Tres Turons (Ana Calderón i Carles Palau) @viver_tres_turons
Video documentation: Åkerblom Studio – @akerblom_studio
Architectural consultation: Fernando Ramos
Technical consultation Ajuntament de Barcelona: Institut Municipal de Parcs i Jardins de Barcelona 


With the collaboration of:

Instituto Polaco de Cultura

I-Portunus mobility grant


kerblom Studio