Iconic Design: The Barcelona Chair

“The chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has ever tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems – the chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a sky scraper than a chair.”

~ Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Photo by Mikael Leppä via Flickr
Photo by Mikael Leppä via Flickr

Originally designed as the centerpiece for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, the Barcelona chair was a design sensation that has lasted nearly nine decades. Though Bauhaus designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his design partner Lilly Reich usually created designs for the ‘common man’, these chairs (and their matching stools) were created for the King and Queen of Spain, who were to preside at an opening reception in the German Pavilion. The Barcelona Chair was the talk of the design world at the time and is still a “must have” piece in the homes of architects, designers, and modernist design aficionados.

Mies van der Rohe, along with Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture. Often associated with the aphorisms, “less is more” and “God is in the details”, Mies (as he is commonly referred to) believed in the use of simple rectilinear forms, clean lines, pure use of color, and the extension of space around and beyond interior walls. His collaborator for more then ten years, Lilly Reich, was a modernist designer who began her career as a designer of textiles and women’s fashion. When Mies became the director of the avant-garde Bauhaus School of architecture and design, Reich joined the faculty, teaching interior design and furniture design. It was during this period of professional and personal partnership with Reich that Mies van der Rohe became involved in furniture design.

Since it’s introduction, the Barcelona Chair has been in production (with the exception of one sixteen year period), with very few changes from the first version. The original frame was designed to be bolted together, but in 1950, Mies redesigned the chair using stainless steel, which had recently become available. Cowhide replaced the ivory-colored pigskin which was used for the original pieces. In 1953, Mies van der Rohe ceded his rights to the design to Knoll, who has manufactured the chair since then. Though Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design, replicas abound and are sold under different marketing names. (Click here to get the scoop on licensed reproductions and reissues here on Apartment Therapy.)

For more remarkable chair designs, from classic to funky to fabulous, check out our Pinterest board! 

Classic design that will will stand the test of time is what you will get with a natural stone countertop from Prestige Marble & Granite. Stop by our showroom and let our knowledgable staff help you select the most beautiful and enduring countertops for your home. Our highly skilled fabricators use the latest in technology to ensure precise cutting, fitting, and installation of your natural stone, for a beautiful look for years to come. 



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