The Three Purposes of the Barcelona Chair
As many of us know, at the ends of the 19th century, the German government commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design the German pavilion at the International Exposition that was being held in Barcelona. Mies Van der Rohe was a well-known German-American architect of the late 19th century. Van der Rohe is accredited as one of the most relevant figures in modernist architecture, with iconic pieces such as theBarcelona Chair and buildings like the Seagram Headquarters.
Van der Rohe created this iconic Barcelona Chair for three purposes:
First, to display it in the German Pavilion at the International Exposition of Barcelona. That was exposition of international fame and it would bring opportunities to van der Rohe to show all his skills, not only as an Architect (he work privately for two more pavilions, but as a designer).
Second, to provide a simple example of his saying “less is more”. The German Pavilion was a perfect portrait of what we call modernism and minimalism. Today is considered one of the pivotal spaces that let van der Rohe show the power of Modernism. The German Pavilion was dismantled in 1930, but it was restored in 1985 by a international group of architects.
Third: To provide a throne to Alfonso XIII and his wife, Kings of Spain, that would be there at the opening. This was a factor that had major influence in the design of the Barcelona Chair, even thought that Alfonso XIII didn’t use the chair.
At that time people adored this chair so much that Mies find ways to produce it in Germany even in the terrible context of the WWII, but a point came when he had to leave Germany and stablish in America, where it was finally taken by Knoll, the legendary house conducted by Florence Knoll.
So why is the Barcelona Chair an icon of the 20th century? The answer is very simple!
Due to its materials, lines and texture.
After the Second World War, new materials emerged (in addition to wood) such as glass, plastic and steel, and a new integration of these materials into design. In this particular case, the innovation was the inclusion of steel under the cushions and support
If you analyze the shapes and lines of the chair you will notice that they are very clean and sophisticated, a representation of modernism.
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