Casting Shadows: Puig’s (Mies)ing Columns is a project about Josep Puig i Cadafalch’s disappearing position in history due to revisionism. The installation was a proposal for a competition to rebuild Josep Puig’s Eight Columns and Two Pedestals. However, rather than simply rebuild the structure, the intention was to create an installation that is simultaneously present and absent, in order to more fittingly reflect upon Puig’s position in history. The installation re-casts the shadows in the original Berliner-Bild Bericht images - without the physical structure - to use Puig’s erased moment in history as a redefined means of his commemoration.
History is a fickle matter. Depending its author, historical documentation can be easily altered with critical moments being exaggerated, understated, added, or even worse, erased. Classified as historical revisionism, this practice is common in the documentation of past records and events, as many historical narratives are distorted or even negated in order to enforce ideological beliefs. Later historians attempt to revise these misinterpretations, but as time goes by and evidence becomes lost, it becomes more difficult to establish the accuracy of events.
As politics and architecture have had a symbiotic relationship throughout history many buildings have been constructed to serve as political icons, while buildings that embody opposition to a given political regime have a tendency to be eradicated (both physically and from historical documentation). Josep Puig i Cadafalch was a Catalan Modernista architect whose work was a casualty of this practice on multiple occasions, through the demolition of his structures and the subsequent revision of their documentation. Les Quatres Columnes (1919) was demolished by the Spanish government because it represented the four red stripes on the Catalan flag - symbolizing progress – and Dictator Primo de Rivera did not want any Catalan symbol visible for the International Exposition held in Barcelona in 1929.
After the demolition, Puig was nevertheless commissioned to build eight columns and two pedestals similar to Les Quatres Columnas for the International Exposition. As fate would have it, Puig’s columns and pedestals would again fall victim to revisionism, this time at the hands of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the German Pavilion. Puig’s columns and pedestals were approximately 25 meters away from the pavilion and the roughly forty-foot columns casted an unfavorable shadow toward Mies van der Rohe’s building. Mies later had the shadows erased for the published photos of the pavilion, known as the Berliner Bild-Bericht images, manipulating one of the few images that served as evidence of the existence of Puig’s columns. As a project with very little historical documentation, Mies's decision indirectly threatened to erase Puig’s columns from historical memory.
It is unclear how Puig was sought to build the eight columns and two pedestals after his previous columns were recently demolished, but some believe he received the commission because
The concrete members represented
with the intention to. . The eight ionic columns symbolized
, while the two pedestals served as a reminder of. . Each pedestal had four striped poles
. The project was demolished in 19.. and survived by scarce documentation.
That the history of Puig’s columns and pedestals was barely documented is remarkable, especially as the narrative involves the Barcelona Pavilion; arguably one of the most well-known buildings of all time and responsible for defining an epoch in Modernism. This instance is not as extreme as the previous political revisionism Puig had endured but it is unknown whether Mies consciously attempted to erase the columns and pedestals from history. Nevertheless, Mies denied Puig’s moment in history by erasing its presence from record.