Classic Works of the Century-The Barcelona Chair

Barcelona Pavilion

You must have seen this chair more than once. It is one of the most famous modern chairs in the 20th century. Its status is comparable to the Eames Chair, Wassily Chair and Egg Chair. Its name is called the Barcelona chair. However, you must not expect that this chair was not invented directly as furniture, but was invented to decorate the Barcelona Pavilion.

The mastermind behind the chairs exhibited at the Barcelona Exposition in 1929 was the international-style architect Mies VanDer Rohe. As we all know, Barcelona has made Mies, but it is ironic that the last chair that should have been silent became the most dazzling star, and the famous Barcelona Pavilion became its foil. The popularity of this chair far exceeded Mies’s imagination. Finally, they began mass production of this chair in 1930, and the chair has been selling well ever since.

This is a classic work destined to circulate. You won’t even believe it was created 90 years ago. The smooth black leather gives the chair a formal color bar, and the flat steel bar makes the chair elegant. But what about its design process?

The Barcelona chair is a by-product of a long-term collaboration. It was designed by Mies and his long-time colleague/partner Lily Reich, who has been working with him for ten years. The iconic shape on the side is taken from the Curule Chair, a special type of chair used by the Romans and Egyptians. In these civilizations, enjoying a subtle seat represents fame and power. Only the richest and most powerful can sit in that chair.

The Barcelona Chair is an attempt by Mies & Lily to reverse this idea and democratize it, as they said in an interview. But to a certain extent, it was also inspired by the Cast-Iron garden chair created by Karl Friedrich Shinkels in 1825. The axis of the Barcelona chair is on the side, forming an extreme cantilever structure that can only be completed with modern materials. It is a perfect fusion of form and function.

In the book “Geometry In Design”, Kimberly Elam provides an in-depth geometric analysis of this chair. In terms of size, the Barcelona Chair can be placed in a box. What I mean is that it can be placed in the text box, because the ratio of the height of the chair to the frame is close to 1:1:1. The cushion of the chair follows the ratio of 2 rectangles. In the side view, you can learn about the construction of tubular steel by using three simple circles. In fact, Mies only received a small amount of copyright fees on this chair, because he sold the copyright of the chair to Knoll in 1935. Nowadays, the price of the originals is so high that the imitation market is booming, because the price of the originals is too exaggerated: the price of a single Barcelona chair is US$6,500!

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