The modern chair you won't believe is 85 years old : The Barcelona chair

Welcome to What’s in a Name Wednesday!

Where we take a look at some of the best known names in Design and inspect what makes them stand the test of time.

Today's lucky contestant is the Barcelona chair; held as one of the staple designs of the modern movement. Anyone looking at this chair, whether they know design or not, would call it modern without a second thought.

And it is - except that this puppy dates all the way back to 1929. Yup. This beacon of modern design is only 15 years shy of the century mark - I think we can all agree she looks pretty good for her age. Why is this design still a big deal and why is it referred to as modern when it is as old as my grandma?

So, in a nutshell (because we could discuss the details for days) the modern movement was so called because it was a new perspective on what constitutes "good design". Classic design styles were based on beauty derived from decorative elements; curves, carvings, details, etc. Furniture was ornamentation. The modern movement threw all this away. It was different in 2 major ways: first, the form of any piece was derived from function. Shaping and details were all a product of successful execution of that function. Second, modern design uses materials and manufacturing technologies that were not possible prior to the industrial revolution.

In light of these characteristics, I present to you: The Barcelona chair


The Barcelona chair was designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and was designed to be featured in the International Exposition of 1929, held in Barcelona (hence the name). The original design had the 2 cross bars bolted together and was upholstered in ivory pigskin. The form was said to be inspired by the Roman curule chair which was a symbol of political or military power also used by European kings and Napoleon.

**Fun fact about the Barcelona chair: it was designed to serve as throne for the Spanish king and queen during the exposition in the German Pavilion at Montjuïc (also designed by Mies and shown below).


"The chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has ever tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems - the chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a sky scraper than a chair." - Mies 1930

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All my best to you – create spaces you love so much they actually love you back~