Barcelona Chairs

An Iconic Form from an Iconic Home

This rare pair of Barcelona chairs with ottomans was custom ordered by Philip Johnson for the main living area of the Wiley House, an iconic modernist home he designed in 1952. Prior to Knoll production, Barcelona chairs were made to order in chrome-plated steel by Treitel Gratz in New York and in stainless steel by Gerry Griffith in Chicago. These early examples feature a more precise intersection at the cross members of their frames which is more closely aligned with Mies van der Rohe’s original design. The utilization of a solid leather sling beneath the cushion on the ottoman further distinguishes this custom set by Treitel Gratz.

Interior of the Wiley House featuring these pair of Barcelona chairs with ottoman in situ. © Ezra Stoller / Esto Wiley House, Location: New Canaan CT, Architect: Philip Johnson

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is one of the most celebrated modernist architects of the twentieth century, known for developing the International Style in Germany and abroad, which emphasized function, balance, clean lines and the use of glass and steel.

Mies van der Rohe was born in 1886 in Aachen, Germany, a center of heavy industry. His father was a stonecutter and Mies, who was never formally trained in architecture, often worked with his father, developing his exceptional sensitivity to materials at a young age. At 15, he apprenticed with several architectural firms in Aachen, and in 1905 he moved to Berlin to work for architect and furniture designer Bruno Paul. He received his first independent commission in 1907, the Riehl House in Postdam, and it caught the attention of Peter Behrens, the most progressive architect of the era. Mies joined the firm, where he met Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, who were also working under Behrens. From 1915 to 1918, he served in the war and, upon returning to Berlin, became involved in the very active artistic scene of the 1920s, when Bauhaus De Stijl and Expressionism were all emerging. In 1924, Mies met Lilly Reich, whom he collaborated and was involved with for many years; together, they designed the Barcelona chair, which debuted at the Mies-designed Germany pavilion for the World’s Fair in 1929 and is now regarded as one of the most iconic designs of the modern era.

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