• In this paper, Robin Evans reflected on the asymmetrical characteristic of Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion. The first asymmetry came from the Pavilion in situ as it “indicates that it is related to its context by being at odds with it.” The second one, associated with the reflective or mirror symmetry, can be identified in almost every component – walls, pools, windows, paving slabs, roof slabs. Since they are all rectangular, they all at least have three planes of reflective symmetry.Nevertheless, the asymmetries of the Pavilion can be seen as reactions against both classical and modern architecture. This idea would no longer be hard to underst and if we consider Mies’s lifelong concern with “the logic of structure and its expression.” Evans argued that Mies was interested in “expressing the truth of construction” at least as much as “the truth of construction.” Indeed,the structural system of the Pavilion appears not to conform to the load-support principle by refusing to declare the downward thrust of its own mass, but to perform a task of “trying the roof to the floor and clamping the walls tightly in-between.” In other words, the columns “hold the roof down more surely than they hold it up.” This similar effect was also evident in his later Lake Shore Drive towers, as if which do not rise against the pull of gravity,because “gravity does not enter into it.”
  • Regarding spatial construct of the Pavilion, Robin Evans, like Constantand Quetglas, also noticed that the framed views were being pulled closer to the spectator, whose vision was always being impeded more than confined. All component worked together against the desire to see beyond or upward, although I am very much convinced by the author’s discussion about “horizon line,”which, Evans argues, was in line with what became prominent in perspective drawing. At the end of the day, Evans asserted that Miesian “free plan” has“far more to do with the compositional discoveries of perspective painting than the anti-perspectival ambition of the De Stijl artists.”
  • Evans famously pointed out other kinds of “symmetries” in the Pavilion that “are of an entirely different order to those of monumental classicism” -“It is unexpected because Mies had gotten rid of vertical bilateral symmetry(the kind we expect) making a conspicuous show of its absence. He then reintroduced it, in quantity, in another dimension, where no one would think of looking for it: horizontally.” This way of constructing symmetry, close to eye-level, is almost impossible to escape. Therefore, rather than the vertical symmetry, Mies delivered a new kind of “symmetry” by virtue of ambulant position of human body. Constructed in a way that was in turn emphasized human occupation of space as it relies on the relation of our vision to the gesture of our body,  this commanding horizontal line, which did not conform to the depth perception, can be understood as a means to suppress the depth and consequently work against the linear perspective.

Since the building didn’t try to conceal or articulate gravity as much as it didn’t try to reinforce the depth nor did it try to reduce it. Mies simply aimed to“suppress” all of our “natural” understandings of reality, thus turning the Pavilion into a “conceptual” entity that was independent from any material contingency, an abstract construction that does not respond to any change from the circumstances. I think the notion asymmetries of “paradoxical symmetries”in Evans mind maybe can be expressed much directly and clearly by using“a-rational.” The prefix “a” here does not indicate a sense of “anti,”rejection, or negation but rather a sense of liberation or “doing away with,”or “going beyond.” It is more like a “without.” I think this is maybe one way to understanding what Mies was looking for, by suspending any “trick” (Plato’s term” [Plato, The Republic, book 10,sec. 1.]  that shape our perception as well as bridging the truth and appearance in terms of the “being” of architecture. He maybe wanted to “the truth of appearance,” or “what happens when things are made to be looked at.”

Posted by:Liyang DING

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