The first models are manufactured at the factory in East Greenville, Pennsylvania. They are chrome plated, quilted on one side and feature a flat piece of leather on the back. The special feature of a Barcelona chair from Knoll is the thick fillet tube on the cushions, which is padded with thick industrial foam. This chair was originally made with the assistance of modernist designer Lilly Reich. It was a contribution to the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain.
It was produced in very limited quantities in the 1930s and 40s. The design was later modified by Mies to make it slightly slimmer. In 1953, Knoll Associates took over production after its original patents had expired. After Mie’s death in 1969, Knoll began making bronzed versions of the Barcelona Chair for special orders, particularly in the Midwest.
The most distinctive feature of a Barcelona chair made by Knoll is the thick, stitched piping on the cushions, which are filled with thick industrial foam. A genuine Barcelona Chair from Knoll has Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s signature stamped on the leg of the chair. To make sure you’re buying a high-quality original instead of a reproduction, learn more about identifying an authentic Barcelona chair with these steps. The chair sat perfectly in the middle of Barcelona’s distinctive pavilion, which itself was built from materials such as glass, steel, Roman travertine and golden onyx from the Atlas Mountains.
During the transition period between 1945 and 1947, production of the Barcelona Chair continued in New York, where it was manufactured by Titlegratz. These early iterations of the chair featured cushions filled with horsehair, as they were originally designed for the Barcelona pavilion. Originally designed for the exhibition, only two iterations of the Barcelona Chair were specifically designed for the Barcelona Pavilion. The cover of the fifth volume of Spy × Family features the character Yuri Briar sitting on a Barcelona chair.
The original Barcelona chair consists of 17 strips of leather (other materials such as vinyl may indicate imitators), which are evenly distributed on the back and under the bottom cushion in a ladder-like manner. The Barcelona Chair proved to be so appealing that it was put into general production shortly after its unveiling. The renowned architect and designer Mies van der Rohe unveiled the now notorious Barcelona Pavilion (also known as the German Pavilion), in which the chair played a key role in the exhibition. In 1928, sketches for the Barcelona Chair appeared for the first time, in addition to other seating solutions that Mies used at that time experimented.
The Barcelona Chair was only mass-produced at the end of the 1940s when the Knoll Furniture Company took over production. Aware that King Alfonso XIII would be present, Mies also famously said that the Barcelona chair would be suitable for a king, giving way to the misconception that Barcelona Chair was designed as a monarchical object, an idea that has since been largely discredited by scholars. With its thoroughly chic aesthetics, Mies van der Rohe designed the Barcelona Chair in such a way that it is supported on each of its sides by two chrome-plated, flat steel bars.