Design Icon

Design Icon: Barcelona Chair

by Maxwell Tielman


Design: Barcelona Chair

Designer: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (German, 1886-1969)

Date: 1929

Country of Origin: Germany

Manufacturer: Currently produced by Knoll

Materials & Construction: Chromed steel frame, foam cushions upholstered in leather.

Background: Commonly associated with the phrase “less is more,” Mies van der Rohe is considered by many to be one of the forefathers of Modernist design. A firm believer in the value of clarity and simplicity, Mies, like many of his Modernist contemporaries, sought to create works that embraced industrial manufacture and “honest” design. The Barcelona chair, created for the German Pavillion at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona (also a Mies design), is one of Mies’ crowning achievements. A perfect amalgam of his design philosophies, the Barcelona chair saw Mies playing with sculptural forms and rich material while maintaining a simple, easily mass-produced design. Later picked up by the American manufacturer Knoll, the Barcelona chair remains in production (and popular demand) to this day, a common fixture in luxe apartments and hotels around the world.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.

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  • I have a couple of Barcelona chairs and did something sacrilegious – I had new cushions made in a grey tweed fabric. I know – the upholsterer looked at me sideways but agreed to do it. I still have the original black leather.

    BTW, it’s a challenge to find an upholsterer who can handle the tufting involved – like the egg chair, you need someone who knows what they are doing.

    They live in my reading nook at the top of the stairs.

  • Somewhat obsessed with this chair. Such an amazing classic design and actually way more comfortable then it looks. Love

  • Did you know that Mies van der Rohe designed it to the throne were the Queen of Spain would seat during the inauguration of the German Pavilion? Unfortunately she was a quite old-fashioned lady and she thought it was not elegant enough for the end of her royal back… And refused to seat on it!

  • I love love a Barcelona Chair! Perfect, I had almost forgotten how much. I am going to search some out for my new office studio space, thanks for the reminder!