Classic Chairs: The Barcelona Chair by Ludwig van der Rohe

Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

The often imitated Barcelona chair was designed by one of the pioneering fathers of modernism, German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He created the chair to furnish his equally famous Barcelona Pavilion, for which he designed to represent his country at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. The chair was supposedly inspired by the folding chairs of the Greeks and Romans, which is clearly evident in it’s iconic mirror polished ‘X’ shaped base. A symbol of luxury since it’s inception, the Barcelona chair is the seemingly lone exception to modernism’s call for affordable and functional design for the masses. Though even with its complete lack of regard for price (and if you’ve ever sat in one, comfort), Mies‘ creation has been in continuous production for all but 16 of the last 80 years. An impressive feat for any design, but even more so for one that’s reputation is constantly being threatened by an ever growing sea of cheap knock-offs and poor reproductions. Yet arguably the key to its longevity lies in the fact that Knoll (the official licensed manufacturer since 1953) still takes 45 hours to produce a single Barcelona chair to the exact original specifications — perhaps a fitting testament to Mies’ famed statement that “God is in the details.”



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