Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for Knoll

Table of Contents

During his long career, German architect and designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe managed to create this personalized aesthetic and even catchy mottos. When he began working as an architect in the 1920s, he was influenced by the 100% German movement called Bauhaus. It was an all-encompassing art movement that strived to break down barriers and divisions between different disciplines.

After the Nazis pushed Mies to emigrate to the United States, the German creator adapted his early views to his new surroundings. Slowly but surely, his style moved towards a “skin and bones” philosophy. Or, as Mies said, the “less is more” aesthetic. That’s where the Barcelona chair comes into play.

The Specs of the Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

This is one of the first furniture designs made by the German architect and creator. It dates back to 1929, all the way to his German years. The style is typically modernist, so this chair is both functional and minimalist. There are no frills in the Barcelona chair. It looks simple in its design. And in its materials, since it’s made of three elements: steel, leather, and foam for the cushions.

The frame and the padding are ergonomic, while the pillow is hand cut and sewn with button quilting. The first (and original) model featured bolts to keep the stainless steel frame together and elements of bovine leather. A later model, made in the 1950s, featured a seamless metal frame and ivory-colored pigskin.

Both models had a hand-polished structure, giving the Barcelona chair a mirror effect and hand-cut and sewn leather cushions. It’s an artisanal piece of furniture, down to the smallest details like the straps of the upholstery. The beauty of this chair signed by Mies are the curves and its shapes, which are soft and comfortable. Plus, the consistency in the materials creates a wholesome effect, an idea of unity.

Mies van der Rohe Barcelona set

The Story Behind It

As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, this is a chair for “a king’s sleep.” Literally and figuratively. In fact, the German designer designed the Barcelona chair for the 1929 International Exposition in Spain. Mies designed for the Spanish Royalty with the collaboration of his wife, Lilly Reich. Kings, queens, and princesses oversaw the exhibition’s opening ceremonies from this unique chair.

Barcelona Pavillon Interior

Mies took inspiration from an Etruscan chair called “sella curulis.” The Barcelona chair is a reinterpretation of this piece of furniture that dates back to ancient Rome, which was almost like a saddle or upholstered stools used by the Roman aristocracy.

This chair designed by Mies was so successful that it has been in production since 1930. The design and furniture company Knoll is the one who is producing it nowadays, just like it has been producing creations by Gae Aulenti, Marcel Breuer, Afra and Tobia Scarpa, Bertoia, and Saarinen.

Barcelona Chair Vintage Advertising

The Barcelona chair is a piece of modernist furniture. Just like Mies’ architectural projects, its materials are industrial, simple, and minimal. They mix and match just like the materials of buildings like the Barcelona Pavilion do. Once again, the German creator did this project for the 1929 International Exposition. And once again, the elements come together, and they include modernist materials like frosted glass. In both the Barcelona chair and the pavilion, the slogan “less is more” is true.

Barcelon Pavillon by Mies van der Rohe

It still rings true in the 21st century since the company Knoll is still proposing the Barcelona chair. Decades later, the modernist movement and aesthetics are still relevant. Maybe now more than ever, thanks to the success of the minimalist movement. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would have liked it.

Do you want to buy or sell Ludwig Mies van der Rohe furniture?

Contact us!

More About Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

More Design Classics

Iconic Designers

Shop Furniture