Reina Sofia (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte), Madrid

During a recent visit to Madrid, on Champions League Finale night, I took time-out from the busy streets to visit the Reina Sofia (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte).



Reina Sofia; Spains National Museum of 20th Century Art,  boasts top collections of Picasso and Dali. However, I had more architecture and urban vested interests in mind.


This particular collection and display documents, through OMA notes, sketches and collage: Barcelona Pavilion by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (possibly dating back to the OMA re-presentation of the Barcelona Pavilion for the 1986 Milan Triennalle). Barcelona Pavilion was the German pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition, representing a new post-war Germany and stylistically an embryo of International Modernism.


The exhibition and display on the Situationists International (SI) was another beautiful stopping point with journals, photographs, diagrams and other artworks, revealing the anti-capitalist roots and process of the social revolutionaries, political theorists
and avant-garde artists. Founder Guy Debord, a Marxist theorist,  continued his critical theory on advanced Capitalism and products of Capitalism (Mass Media, Consumer Culture) with his book The Society of the Spectacle.


The Naked City, 1957 by Guy Debord captures, through collaged sections of Paris, the Situationists theories on New Urbanism and Psychogeography, originally coined by the avant-garde movement Letterist International, and further developed by Dada and Surrealist.



The above models, by Constant Nieuwenhuys (another former Situationist and a hugely influential Netherlands progressive architect/artist), formed part of his lifetime works New Babylon documented in Mark Wigleys’ Constants New Babylon – The Hyper-Architecture of Desire. His models were an abstracted spatial translation of urbanism and social interaction, in a futuristic envision of a world wide city.

……which quietly brings us back to Rem Koolhaas and OMA. It’s not surprising that the OMA addition to this museum space is a documentation on the birth of the International Style. However, there is more Constants New Babylon in OMA than there is Mies van der Rohe. Constants ideas on the interior urban landscape and the maximizing of random encounters are paramount in OMA projects, as is Constants world wide city. However Constant is anti-capitalist and Rem Koolhaas embraces capitalism. So, is there is an elephant in the room? …or are we allowed to compare the two?

I’ll leave you with this shot of Ali and friends before the game 🙂



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