The Barcelona Chair was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his partner Lilly Streich in 1929. Mies van der Rohe, a recognised leader of the German Modern movement was the last director of the Bauhaus - an art school in Germany between 1911 and 1933 – before it was closed down by the Nazis and van der Rohe relocated to America. Bauhaus had vision and was focussed on combining craftsmanship with fine art; it’s influence on architecture can still be seen globally to this day.
The Barcelona Chair, intended as a resting place for the King of Spain, was placed inside the German Pavilion, also designed by van der Rohe, which was used for the official opening of the German section of the 1929 International Exposition (a World Fair hosting 110 hectares of pioneering industry and architecture) hosted by Barcelona. The pavilion itself is recognised around the world for it’s simple form and luxurious materials, featuring marble, red onyx and travertine. The chair too was a simple minimalist design built for elegance and luxury.
Originally manufactured from chrome plated steel frames that were bolted together, the chair was a composition of leather straps, holding ivory coloured pigskin cushions and was an innovative design of free flowing negative space and minimalism that captured the imagination of furniture manufacturers all over the globe. Its fame has far exceeded its purpose and it has become one of the most imitated furniture designs of all time!
In the 1950’s the chair was redeveloped so that frame was now just one continuous fluid piece of highly buffed stainless steel with an elegant modern line and the cushions were made from genuine bovine leather. It retained the sumptuous elegance of high quality materials whilst becoming easier and less costly to reproduce.
The Barcelona Chair was the pride of Germany at the International Exposition and even today it remains a collector’s item acknowledged for it’s simple design, luxurious material and classic elegant appearance. Cheaper imitations can be found in almost all retail outlets and we all recognise elements of the design remaining in modern office furniture. Mies van der Rohe coined the phrase ‘less is more’ (the concept that drove the development of our very own Rossbanna Cornice Collection) and with the popularity of the Barcelona chair still going from strength to strength 100 years after its conception we must acknowledge that this has certainly turned out to be the case.