Design classics: Knoll Barcelona chair
The Barcelona chair manufactured by Knoll was designed for the World Arts Fair held in Barcelona in 1929 and as it is still in production over 80 years later it has earned its place in our Design Classics series.
Ludwig Mies van de Rohe was born in 1886 and became one of the leading modernist architects of his time. For 3 years in the 1930′s he was the director of the Bauhaus, the world renowned school of design located in Germany. Mies understood that for there to be harmony in any building design, the correct furniture had to be used to complement the purpose of the building.
“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
The German government asked Mies to design the German Pavilion at the World Arts Fair held in Barcelona in 1929. The pavilion was built of glass, steel and four kinds of marble – the interior is shown above. Mies understood that the furniture was just as important and he said that what he designed had to be “an important chair, a very elegant chair and costly. It had to be monumental. You couldn’t just use a kitchen chair”.
When the Pavilion was opened the Barcelona chairs were the only furniture in the whole building and they served as thrones when the King and Queen of Spain visited the Pavilion. Their popularity from their debut continued through the 20th Century to the modern day, and they are still specified by architects and designers all over the world.
In 1953 Mies gave the exclusive manufacturing rights to Knoll Studio in Germany, and original versions of the chair can only be produced by Knoll. These versions can easily be identified by the Knoll Studio logo and the Mies signature that is stamped onto the frame. The chair is available in a wide range of Spinneybeck leather colours, although the black version remains the most iconic.
An original Barcelona chair by Knoll can add a classic touch to any home and fits perfectly into any contemporary interior. Although there are many cheaper copies around, if you can, make an investment in an original – it will last a lifetime.