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Barcelona Chair: A Modernist Masterpiece

CEO Khai Intela
The Barcelona chair, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, is an iconic piece of furniture that exudes elegance and sophistication. Originally created for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition...

The Barcelona chair, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, is an iconic piece of furniture that exudes elegance and sophistication. Originally created for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, this chair has since become a symbol of modern design.

Materials and Craftsmanship

The Barcelona chair was initially designed with a bolted frame, but in 1950, it underwent a redesign using stainless steel. This allowed for a seamless metal frame, giving the chair a sleek appearance. The cushions, which were originally made from ivory-colored pigskin, were later replaced with high-quality bovine leather.

Despite its industrial appearance, the Barcelona chair requires meticulous handcrafting. Each chair is painstakingly manufactured by Knoll Inc., who has been producing these chairs since 1953. The signature of van der Rohe himself is stamped onto every frame, a mark of authenticity and quality.

Barcelona chair Barcelona Ottoman in situ at the reconstructed Barcelona Pavilion

A Chair Fit for Royalty

While many designers of the Bauhaus era focused on creating well-designed and accessible furniture for the masses, the Barcelona chair was an exception. It was specifically designed for Spanish royalty to oversee the opening ceremonies of the exhibition. Described by Time magazine as "inhabiting a sumptuous German pavilion," the Barcelona chair exudes an air of regality.

The chair's form is believed to have drawn inspiration from Roman folding chairs known as the Curule chair. These upholstered stools were used by the Roman aristocracy, lending a sense of classical elegance to the Barcelona chair.

A Global Icon

The Barcelona chair's timeless design and enduring appeal have led to its popularity worldwide. Unlicensed replicas of the original design can be found from various manufacturers, often sold under different names. However, these replicas are frequently subject to legal challenges.

Unlicensed replicas Unlicensed replicas

In Popular Culture

The Barcelona chair has made appearances in various forms of media, solidifying its status as an icon. In Tom Wolfe's book "From Bauhaus to Our House," the chair is referred to as "the Platonic ideal of the chair." It has become a symbol of status and aspiration for young architects.

The chair even found its way into the realms of science fiction, making an appearance in the "Star Trek: Voyager" finale as part of Admiral Kathryn Janeway's apartment. Its presence in popular culture speaks to its influence and timeless allure.

Rediscover the Barcelona Pavilion

To fully appreciate the Barcelona chair, one must visit the reconstructed Barcelona Pavilion. This architectural masterpiece was also designed by Mies van der Rohe and serves as the perfect backdrop for experiencing the chair's elegance. Take a moment to immerse yourself in the world of modern design and witness the Barcelona chair in its intended environment.

Conclusion

The Barcelona chair remains a symbol of modernist design and timeless elegance. Its clean lines, impeccable craftsmanship, and regal allure have made it a coveted piece of furniture worldwide. Whether placed in a stylish home, an architectural masterpiece, or even a science fiction setting, the Barcelona chair transcends time and continues to captivate admirers with its beauty and sophistication.

References:

  • Sourcebook of Modern Furniture, Third Edition, Jerryll Habegger and Joseph H Osman
  • Miles van der Rohe, Aurora Cuito and Cristina Montes
  • Bauhaus, Hans Engels and Ulf Meyer
  • Modernism - designing a new world, Christopher Wilk, V&A p. 155
  • Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, Jonathan Woodham
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