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August 15, 2007

The Story of the Barcelona Chair

Time for a history lesson. We'll take you through the past of one of modern furniture's best loved classics. Today's topic - the Barcelona Chair...


Designed expressly for the king and queen of Spain, this chair was a new, modern take on the scissor-like collapsible stools used by Roman and Egyptian rulers. Reinterpreting the form in steel and leather, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created a clean, now classic style that didn’t sacrifice the chair’s inherent meaning—to represent high status and exalted political position.

After just six months, the building Mies designed and created the Barcelona Chairs for was dismantled (the German Pavilion had been built for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain). His chairs, the only two in existence, might have been lost to the future, were it not for the ingenuity of manufacturers.

In 1931, a German catalog began offering the chairs. In 1948, Mies gave an apprentice photographs of the originals to create a few more for the lobbies of the Chicago Lake Shore Drive apartments. Later that year, Florence Knoll obtained Mies’s permission to begin a limited mass production of the design and hired Treitel-Gratz to complete five chrome-plated steel frames a week.

Find out when to spurge and when to spend on the icons of modern furniture in Clones or Close Enough?

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