What’s in a Name? A History of the Barcelona Chair

“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 van der Rohe 1930

Possibly the most famous piece of modern furniture ever made, the Barcelona Chair is recognized and hailed around the world for its eternally stylish design. But do you actually know why it’s called the Barcelona Chair?

You could answer, simplistically, that it was made in Barcelona, Spain, but it’s the details of this tale (much like the aesthetic of the chair itself) that make the story so much more interesting.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich designed the Barcelona Chair for the International Exposition of 1929 in Barcelona. Mies van der Rohe, who was more famous for his architecture at the time, was commissioned to design the German Pavilion for the exposition, and began working on the chair as part of his project.

Spain’s royal family was expected to attend the widely anticipated event, so Mies made a great effort to ensure his chairs both suited the celebratory nature of the occasion and maintained German Bauhaus principles like functionality and simplicity as well.

These days the chair is widely regarded as an archetype for mid-century modern furniture , but at the time, several factors separated it from many other Bauhaus pieces. Chiefly, the chair was difficult to make and required a large amount of labour. It was not economical either. In addition, the chair’s design (though not entirely confirmed) may have originated from a “curule” seat, an ancient chair reserved for royalty, politicians and pharaohs in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Europe through to the 20th century. Set up as the centerpiece of the Pavilion, the chairs garnered much attention, and along with the architecture of the pavilion, achieved success. Many suggested that the design had a futuristic look that echoed the optimistic sentiments of post-war Germany – a country desperately seeking a comeback.

Redesigned in the 1950s, the chair traded a metal base with bolts for a seamless steel base, and used cow leather instead of pigskin. The appearance of the new version was even more minimalistic, clean and sleek than the original, and surged the designs popularity forward once more.

Though industrial methods have changed greatly over the past 80 years, the Barcelona chair still requires a great amount of care, patience and detail in its construction. Rove Concept’s stunning reproduction adheres to every standard of the original’s, starting from the seamless, solid steel base, to the carefully upholstered 100% genuine aniline leather, with 40 carefully hand-crafted and sewn individual panels.

You will feel the difference you can feel as soon as you sit, because quality is in the details.







Posted in Great design, Latest trends.

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