After posting the works of so many maestro of the Mid-Century Modern Design Movement, how can I miss this classic piece by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe? I am talking about the Barcelona Chair. Not often mentioned, this is not a solo work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. His Co-Designer is seldom given the recognition showered on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for this iconic design that is popularly re-produced by manufacturers. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had co-designed the Barcelona Chair with Lilly Reich for the German Pavilion at the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929. As the chair is designed for the then King and Queen of Spain, you can see why this design as one that is fit for the Royalty.
In 1953, Knoll bought the manufacturing and sales rights to the design directly from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe himself. Since then, Knoll had been the only original manufacturer of the Barcelona Chair and certificate of authenticity and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s signature are the identifier of an original Barcelona Chair.
According to Barcelona.com, the Barcelona Chair design is said “to be derived from his interpretation of an Egyptian Royal Folding Chair and a Roman Folding Footstool”. I have no idea what an Egyptian Royal Folding Chair and Roman Folding Footstool looks like until I searched for the pictures on the internet. It does strike a chord with both the Egyptian and Roman counter parts looking very much like the Barcelona Chair and Stool.
The original Barcelona Chair had its ivory coloured pig-skinned buttoned cushion and back rests suspended on leather straps bound on a chrome plated steel frame. As technology advances, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe redesigned the Barcelona Chair with the new industrial materials such as stainless steel while Knoll adds the use of other types of leather.
Crawling through the net found me some very beautifully restored Barcelona Chair pictures from Classic Design Blog.
The Barcelona Chair had also spin-off a series of furniture. We have the accompanying Barcelona Stool, Daybed, Coffee Table and even Sofa. I find the Stool good for use as an Ottoman, making the Barcelona Chair very comfortable. The Barcelona Daybed also doubles up effectively as a Singles Bed for guests which is something I had been looking for to put in the Home Library which I had the intention to double use it as a guest room for my brother who returns from Australia every year.
In the same practice as with many reputable manufacturers, Knoll updates the icon with contemporary flavours using many different colours of Spinneybeck leather. They even have it in Kids’ Size! In the recent years, modern classics had been on a constant rise and it is not surprising for original manufacturers to do so when their competitors are creating new pieces of furniture based on the original design.
Take the Serralunga Barceloneta for example. This is just one of the many “inspired” designs based on iconic classics and it is pretty obvious that Raffaella Mangiarotti took direct reference off Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Masterpiece when he conceives the Barceloneta. This year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano saw many such inspired designs that takes classic shapes and add a different touch to create a whole new contemporary design. Minotti had exhibited their great work with tables taking inspiration from the surfboard shape from Charles & Ray Eameses’ Elliptical Accent Table and Isamu Noguchi’s Noguchi Accent Table. It is not a bad thing for the contemporist who finds the modern classics’ appeal wearing out by just enough to dissuade them from putting one in their home, these inspired pieces are very good alternatives.
In my view, It will be very interesting for me to put both the original and the inspired pieces together in an Eclectic arrangement. I just need to bear in mind to pick them from the same colour palette to create that familiar, but different feel. Since my colour palette will likely be White-Grey-Green-Wood, the Barcelona Chair will probably not find a space in my inventory list as there is too much chrome in it. But who knows, my preferred design may change over the months and maybe years to come while waiting for my ideal property to pop up.