Alan Wheatley Art

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Artist Biography  German, 1886-1969

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German architect, along with Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

Mies, like many of his post WW I contemporaries, sought to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times just as Classical and Gothic did for their own eras. He created an influential Twentieth-Century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. His mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define austere but elegant spaces. He developed the use of exposed steel structure and glass to enclose and define space, striving for an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of open space.

Mies designed modern furniture pieces using new industrial technologies that have become popular classics, such as the Barcelona chair and table, and the Brno chair.

His furniture is known for fine craftsmanship, a mix of traditional luxurious fabrics like leather combined with modern chrome frames, and a distinct separation of the supporting structure and the supported surfaces, often employing cantilevers to enhance the feeling of lightness created by delicate structural frames. During this period, he collaborated closely with interior designer and companion Lilly Reich.

Among the most elegant and imposing of the chairs designed by Mies van der Rohe in collaboration with the interior designer Lilly Reich is the opulent Barcelona Chair. Designed in 1929, it is one of the most recognizable early 20th century chairs and is still a familiar sight in corporate foyers. The chair was developed for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exhibition in Barcelona as part of Mies’ commission to design the pavilion and its contents. As the German Pavilion was to be the setting for the official opening ceremony, Mies decided upon a throne-like form for the chairs and modelled them on the sella curulis, an ancient stool used by Roman magistrates.

Knoll manufactures the frame in two different steel configurations, chrome and stainless. The chair is almost completely hand-laboured. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's signature is stamped into each chair.

The frame was initially designed to be bolted together, but was re-designed 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 the design were patented by Mies in Germany, Spain and the USA in the 1930s and have since expired. The Barcelona chair was manufactured in the US and Europe in limited production by a few producers from the 1930s to the 1950s.

In the 1950s, Mies collaborated with Knoll on the designs, which renewed popularity in the design. In 1953, six years after Reich's death, van der Rohe ceded his rights and his name on the design to Knoll, knowing that his design patents were expired.

Knoll claims to be the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design.

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