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The Barcelona chair is a chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. It was originally designed for the German Pavilion, that country's entry for the International Exposition of 1929, which was hosted by Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was first used in Villa Tugendhat, a World Heritage Site designed by Mies van der Rohe in the city of Brno (Czech Republic).[1]

Barcelona chair
Ngv design, ludwig mies van der rohe & co, barcelona chair.JPG
Designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich
Date 1929
Materials Chrome on steel frame. Leather cushions filled with foam
Style / tradition Modernist
Height 75 cm (30 in)
Width 75 cm (30 in)
Depth 75 cm (30 in)


Materials and manufactureEdit

The frame was initially designed to be bolted together, but was redesigned in 1950 using stainless steel, which allowed the frame to be formed by a seamless piece of metal, giving it a smoother appearance. Bovine leather replaced the ivory-colored pigskin which was used for the original pieces.

The functional design and elements of it that were patented by Mies in Germany, Spain and the United States in the 1930s have since expired.[citation needed] The Barcelona chair was manufactured in the US and Europe in limited production from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1953 Mies ceded his rights and his name on the design to Knoll,[citation needed] knowing that his design patents were expired. This collaboration then renewed popularity in the design.[citation needed]

Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design.[citation needed] In 1965, Knoll purchased the trademark rights to the Barcelona word[clarification needed] from Drexel. In 2004, Knoll received trade dress rights[clarification needed] to the design from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.[citation needed] Despite these trademarks, a large replica market continues. Gordon International New York has continued to manufacture the designs since the 1970s, even after a court battle against Knoll in 2005.[citation needed] In 2011, another court battle erupted between Knoll and; the outcome is pending.[citation needed] In 2013, filed a counter-suit against Knoll in Central District of California, Western Division alleging fraud on the USPTO regarding Barcelona furniture designs.[2]

Philosophy and economicsEdit

Although many architects and furniture designers of the Bauhaus era were intent on providing well-designed homes and impeccably manufactured furnishings for the "common man," the Barcelona chair was an exception. It was designed for the Spanish Royalty to oversee the opening ceremonies of the exhibition and described by Time magazine as inhabiting "his sumptuous German pavilion."[3] The form is thought to be extrapolated from Roman folding chairs known as the Curule chair – upholstered stools used by Roman aristocracy. According to Knoll Inc., despite its industrial appearance the Barcelona chair requires much hand craftsmanship.[4]

Current productionEdit

Since 1953 Knoll Inc has manufactured Barcelona chairs. They make the frame in two different steel configurations, chrome and stainless. They say that their chairs are almost completely hand-laboured,[5] and that a facsimile of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's signature is stamped into each chair.

Barcelona chairs are made by other manufacturers worldwide and are sold under different marketing names.

In popular cultureEdit

In his 1981 book about modern architecture, From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe mocked the Barcelona chair as "the Platonic ideal of chair", and wrote that, despite its high price, owning one had become a necessity for young architects: "When you saw the holy object on the sisal rug, you knew you were in a household where a fledgeling architect and his young wife had sacrificed everything to bring the symbol of the godly mission into their home."[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Lawsuit Summary - Moderno Inc v. Knoll Inc". Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  3. ^,9171,809146,00.html
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
  6. ^ Goldberger, Paul (October 11, 1981). "From Bauhaus to Our House". The New York Times. 
  • Sourcebook of Modern Furniture, Third Edition, Jerryll Habegger and Joseph H Osman
  • Miles van der Rohe, Aurora Cuito and Cristina Montes
  • Bauhaus, Hans Engels and Ulf Meyer
  • Modernism - designing a new world, Christopher Wilk, V&A p. 155
  • Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, Jonathan Woodham

External linksEdit