This reproduction of the Spanish Republic Pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris was built in 1992, when the Vall d’Hebron neighbourhood was redeveloped in preparation for the Barcelona Olympic Games. The pavilion, identical to the one that represented republican democratic values at the fair in France, now houses a documentation centre on 20th-century Spanish history.
The Government of the Second Spanish Republic commissioned the architects Josep Lluís Sert and Luís Lacasa to design a pavilion for the Paris Expo in order to promote republican democratic values in response to the totalitarianism that was spreading throughout Europe. With Lacasa, Sert, one of the group of modern architects that took their inspiration from the rationalism of Le Corbusier, designed an avant-garde building with straight lines and unadorned façades, in stark contrast to the monumentalist architecture employed in pavilions representing countries governed by totalitarian regimes such as Germany and the Soviet Union.
The International Exposition in Paris was used as a chance to show the world what was happening in Spain, which was immersed in a Civil War caused by the fascist military uprising against the legitimate republic government in July 1936. The Spanish pavilion was a propaganda tool warning against the threat to world stability that a fascist victory in Spain would pose. The Second Republic called for the external support that was denied it through the Committee of Non-Intervention whilst the rebel forces received support from Italy and Germany, who sent soldiers, weapons and airplanes to the Spanish fascists.
Many renowned artists supported this propaganda push by contributing works to the pavilion. The works exhibited included: Alexander Calder’s “Mercury Fountain”; Joan Miró’s mural entitled “The Catalan Peasant in Revolt”; and Picasso’s iconic work “Guernica”, which denounced the bombing of that Basque town by the German Condor Legion. Photomontages were also installed in the pavilion to illustrate the Republic’s social and modernisation policies, along with other pieces, such as a large portrait of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, assassinated by the fascists.
On the closure of the International Exposition, the pavilion was demolished, and the artworks were distributed around several countries. Some accompanied the artists that had created them into exile. Nearly 50 years later, Barcelona City Council decided to install a faithful reproduction of that emblematic building in the Vall d’Hebron neighbourhood, which was undergoing redevelopment to house some of the infrastructure required in order to host the 1992 Olympic Games. During the Games, the pavilion housed press rooms. The building was then closed until 1997, when it was converted into the University of Barcelona Library of the Republic Pavilion, furnished with a unique documentary collection on the period embracing the Spanish Second Republic, the Civil War, the exile, the Franco dictatorship and the Democratic Transition.
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