Sofa (daybed)

Knoll International

Barcelona Couch (1930), Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) was a German-American architect and is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern architecture. Mies wanted to create a new architectural style that could represent modern times, using modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass. He called his buildings ‘skin and bones’ architecture. The quotation ‘less is more’ is attributed to him. For his furniture designs he worked closely with Lilly Reich.

In 1929 Mies designed the Barcelona Chair for the German Pavilion, the country’s entry for the International Exposition of 1929, which was hosted by Barcelona, Spain. It was first used in Villa Tugendhat, a World Heritage Site designed by Mies van der Rohe in Brno. The year following, the Barcelona daybed was added to the Barcelona collection. Still produced to his original specifications by Knoll, the couch gained widespread popularity in 1953, when architect Philip Johnson selected it for his New York apartment. The frame is made from African mahogany, with stainless steel legs, and the cushion come from a single Volo cowhide and are supported by cowhide belting straps.

There is a slight problem with the Barcelona series: the functional design and elements patented by Mies in 1930, have since expired. Although Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design, the market is flooded with knock-offs. The daybed kept its grace – few people have the space to place one – but unfortunately the Barcelona Chair is like a pop song you’ve heard to often. It features in posh hotels, office buildings and middle class apartments alike.

Why on Wikiconic?
Design, heritage.
Photo credits
© Knoll International S.p.A., Milan, Italy

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