Barcelona – In our fast-paced world, a designer’s breaks are far and few. Jumping from group show to site-specific installation to retail collaboration is the new standard, making it challenging to take a contemplative stance on space.
And yet, Sabine Marcelis did just that. Her material-driven intervention (which opened last Friday) at the heroic Mies van der Rohe Pavilion in Barcelona is a generous act of sincere contemplation on a perfect space, conceived over a considerable amount of time. ‘Normally, I work on projects with a real fast turn-around from concept to presentation,’ says Marcelis. ‘This time around, I really wanted to take my time — because the space is so final and perfect as it is. It’s a holy grail of modern architecture. Adding anything at all felt like a big responsibility.’ Marcelis took one-and-a-half years to execute an in-depth research of the space and come to understand its ideology. ‘I really wanted to do it right,’ says Marcelis, whose Rotterdam-based studio is known for its experimental attitude towards material, taking time to reassess material properties and push the limits of form.
Marcelis recurrently uses glass in her interventions, as was the case for No Fear of Glass — although Marcelis is quick to stress, she treats all material with which she works with equal consideration. Mies van der Rohe's original reflection pools, part of the architect's 1929 German pavilion, gave rise to the installation's functional and showstopping showpiece, Marcelis's stunning fountain. Marcelis believes all form-related design decisions must simultaneously respond to the architecture of the pavilion, and that of the human body: ‘The curve of the travertine on the bench, for instance, took many iterations until I was satisfied with how it supported the neck. Or take the fountain, designed in such a way that it can easily be taken apart for cleaning. The works I design always contain intrinsic design solutions in order for them to ultimately remain user-friendly.’