Barcelona Chair by Mies Van Der Rohe – timeless furniture.
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is a pioneer and central figure of the modern movement and industrial design. He is well-recognised Germen architect and he was a director of the Bauhaus from 1930 till 1933, the school of design, which main principles were the simplicity of form and unity of all arts, crafts, and design. Distinctive features of the Mies style were minimalism; highly refined forms and “less is more” approach, as well as the use of the modern materials, such as stainless steel and glass. His buildings are famous for the open-plan interiors and balanced structures.
Nevertheless, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe designed a number of substantial pieces of the furniture, the Barcelona Chair is undoubtedly the most influential one. The chair is well recognised because of the unique design and elegant appearance.
The chair was first exhibited in 1929 at the German Pavilion at the Barcelona Industrial Exposition. It was a ceremonial chair – a modern throne, which was designed for the Spanish royal family, King Alfonso XIII and his wife, Ena, in case they would like to have a rest while visiting. (Picture 1. ) The chair was designed to compliment the architecture of the building, which Mies was chosen to design. Barcelona chair became a symbol of the modern movement, a classic of the 20th-century design, representing the perfect unity of form and function. Mies aim was to design not just a chair, but a monumental object. Since then it has been displayed in luxury houses and hotels around the world until today.
“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.”- Mies 1930.
The shape of the Barcelona chair derives from the shape of the thrones of Ancient Egypt as well as Greek and Roman Curule chair, which were used by aristocrats of ancient time. Curule (Picture 2) chair represented power and wealth.The Roman influences are particularly visible in his signature criss-cross frames. The chair is supported by two steel bars from each side, which resemble S-curve, forming the seat and back legs. The initial model of Barcelona chair consisted of a metal frame, which was made up of 12 mm solid steel, 2 pieces of each were welded together and then bolted together; leather straps, which give it a shape and seat with leather finish. The upholstery consists of 40 individual panels and has a quality of a handmade piece.The seat angle is ideal for relaxing. The Barcelona chair is a true mastery of form, function, and beauty. The simplicity and clarity of clean sleek line are so essential and that was reflected in proportions of the chair as well.
The Barcelona Chair has been produced for over 8 decades with only a few changes. In 1950 the chair was modified using modern techniques and materials. The previous chair’s frame was redesigned from bolted one, made of chrome, to monolith frame of stainless steel, which was a completely new material at that time. Another replacement was of the original pigskin with cow leather, which has a soft, natural look and feel. Further modifications have been added. Cushions have been redesigned and foam is now made of different densities, which makes the seat softer and give it plumper look. The chair became even more comfortable.
The first production of the Barcelona chair was in 1930 in Berliner Metallgewerb studio and it was handmade. In 1932-1934 production was continued by Thonet. However after the outbreak of WWII Mies left Berlin and moved to Chicago, where he met his former student Florence Knoll, who proposed Mies to produce an entire collection of furniture in mass for America and international market. In 1953 the company Knoll Inc was given the exclusive manufacturing rights by Mies and it is still produced by it to this day. In 1990’s Knoll studio added the signature on the back right leg of the Barcelona Chair to protect the production of being copying.
LudvigMies van der Rohe believed in designing functional furniture for mass production, so anyone can afford it and own it. However, the chair is hard to manufacture for a mass market, due to the difficulty to make it, as well as very expensive to produce. The company produces the chair in different colours and variety of leather type. The average price for the chair is around £4000 and over.
Knoll is the well-known company which works in collaboration with outstanding designers and architects since 1938. The company is famous for producing furniture that combines technology and craftsmanship, as well as using eco-friendly sustainable materials.
Barcelona chair has been marketedand greatly perceived all over the world. Today The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe is one the most significant and well-recognised design objects in the world. It is a timeless piece because of the unique design, chosen materials, functionality and it would bring elegance and style into any environment, residential building, an office or a hotel. It would suite any ambiance from contemporary or minimalist to classic, eclectic or even retro. That’s why it was so popular all over the world, from America to Europe, in most countries and continents… Barcelona Chair became one of the most influential design objects in the world because of such success and Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe became one of the most influential designers-architects of the 20th century. His minimalistic approach has influenced not only architecture but art and designs as well.
Barcelona Chair will always be as successful as it is has been until now, because of its perfect proportions, shape, and functionality. I think this design will pass on through many generations and will be appreciated even more in the future.