“Never Demolish” at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion

The installation at the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion features the spectacular transformation of 530 dwellings across three high-rise buildings of the Cité du Grand Parc in Bordeaux, for which the architects Lacaton & Vassal, Frédéric Druot, and Christophe Hutin received the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award in 2019. Their transformation project is a model for the social and physical rehabilitation of the often neglected mass-housing estates of modernism.

In the 1960s and 1970s, large-scale housing complexes were built all over the world as a bold solution to satisfy the need for housing. Five decades later they are largely considered as ideologically outdated, urbanistically failed, and ripe for demolition. Against this backdrop Never Demolish claims that these projects can have a second life that’s better than their first, through sensible renovation – enlarging the spaces and improving living standards.

To communicate the transformation of Cité du Grand Parc the curators transformed the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion into a domestic space, which simulates  the two spatial conditions of the project – the apartment interior and the newly added winter garden. An almost 10-metre-long wall ist placed between the famous Onyx wall and the glass facade of the pavilion. It displays 1:1 scale images from the project in Bordeaux: On one side of the wall one can see a selection taking from the living spaces looking into the new wintergardens. On the other side the view from the wintergarden into the living spaces is presented. Additional props such as thermal curtains, sunscreen curtains and pieces of furniture help to convey the ambiences of the two spaces, whilst the images allow a visual connection to be maintained.

For more information check out the Mies van der Rohe Foundation Barcelona