The Knoll Barcelona chair is not just any leather lounge chair. Created by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is indeed ‘fit for a king,’ as the adage goes. This iconic masterpiece of the 20th century was designed by the renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929. Famous for its simple yet sophisticated elegance, the chair embodies Mies van der Rohe’s famous maxim– “less is more”. Not just a furniture piece, the Barcelona Chair is a testament to exceptional craftsmanship, seamlessly merging form and function to create a classic symbol of modern design.
In this article, we look at the iconic chair, its history, design inspiration, construction details, and its enduring influence in the world of design. We’ll also delve into its retail and customization options, its presence in popular culture, and the ongoing controversy around unlicensed replicas. As we uncover these facets, we’ll appreciate why the Barcelona Chair remains a beloved design artefact nearly a century after its creation.
A Short History of the Barcelona Chair by Knoll
The chair was designed for Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain, to coincide with his presence at the opening ceremony of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The fair, which involved 20 European nations including Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Switzerland was used to promote the city’s technological development and raise the profile of Catalan industry.
The event itself cost $25 million and the Barcelona Pavillion, also known as the German Pavillion, was used for the German section of the Expo. It aimed to reflect a new post-World War I Germany: democratic and progressive.
Mies wanted the building to be: “an ideal zone of tranquillity.” Inside, he included furniture that created a resting place for the King and Queen of Spain as he wanted to create a chair that was appropriate for royalty. His creation was the Barcelona chair, a low lounge chair with a metal frame and leather cushions.
The chair saw limited production in the following years until 1953 when Knoll acquired the rights to the design and its popularity grew. Today, it is probably the most imitated chair of all time and replicas are made by other manufacturers worldwide and marketed using different names. The genuine Knoll Barcelona chair is much sought after for homes and offices around the world and is a popular choice among K2 Space clients – particularly those from the financial services sector.
How is the Barcelona Chair Made?
The almost completely hand-laboured Knoll Barcelona chair is made with a chrome frame, which is hand-ground and hand-buffed to a mirror finish. The cushions are upholstered with 40 individual panels cut, hand-welted and hand-tufted from a single cowhide. The cushions are secured to the frame using 17 straps made from cowhide belting leather. As a finishing touch, the signature of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, coupled with the Knoll Studio logo is stamped into the chair leg.