The Barcelona chair is a chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. It was originally designed for the German Pavilion, that country's entry for the International Exposition of 1929, which was hosted by Barcelona, Spain. It was first used in Villa Tugendhat, a masterpiece of Mies van der Rohe in the City of Brno (Czech Republic).
- 2 Philosophy and economics
- 3 Current production
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The frame was initially designed to be bolted together, but was redesigned in 1950 using stainless steel, which allowed the frame to be formed by a seamless piece of metal, giving it a smoother appearance. Bovine leather replaced the ivory-colored pigskin which was used for the original pieces.
The functional design and elements of it that were patented by Mies in Germany, Spain and the United States in the 1930s have since expired.The Barcelona chair was manufactured in the US and Europe in limited production from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1953, six years after Reich's death, van der Rohe ceded his rights and his name on the design to Knoll, knowing that his design patents were expired. This collaboration then renewed popularity in the design.
Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design. In 1965, Knoll purchased the trademark rights to the Barcelona word from Drexel. In 2004, Knoll received trade dress rights to the design from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Despite these trademarks, a large replica market continues. Gordon International New York has continued to manufacture the designs since the 1970s, even after a court battle against Knoll in 2005. In 2011, another court battle erupted between Knoll and RegencyShop.com; the outcome is pending. In 2013, RegencyShop.com filed a counter-suit against Knoll in Central District of California, Western Division alleging fraud on the USPTO regarding Barcelona furniture designs.
Although many architects and furniture designers of the Bauhaus era were intent on providing well-designed homes and impeccably manufactured furnishings for the "common man," the Barcelona chair was an exception. It was designed for the Spanish Royalty to oversee the opening ceremonies of the exhibition and described by Time magazine as inhabiting "his sumptuous German pavillion." The form is thought to be extrapolated from Roman folding chairs known as the Curule chair – upholstered stools used by Roman aristocracy. And despite the industrial appearance the Barcelona chair requires much hand craftsmanship.
Since 1953 Knoll Inc has manufactured the chair. They make the frame in two different steel configurations, chrome and stainless. The chair is almost completely hand-laboured, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's signature is stamped into each chair. Reproductions proliferate worldwide and are sold under different marketing names.
In his 1981 book about modern architecture, From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe mocked the Barcelona chair as "the Platonic ideal of chair", and wrote that, despite its high price, owning one had become a necessity for young architects: "When you saw the holy object on the sisal rug, you knew you were in a household where a fledgeling architect and his young wife had sacrificed everything to bring the symbol of the godly mission into their home."