Mies van der Rohe Iconic Chairs

When Modern really was Modern

The world famous architect and designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, was also a renown furniture designer who’s iconic chairs grace modern buildings from home to office to public spaces. This modern design style is known as the International Style and van der Rohe stands out as one of it’s greatest proponents. He summed up modern design with what is probably the most famous architectural quote of the 20th century: less-is-more. Thus 20-century design, what we call modern, has indeed become an often repeated soundbite.

Deceptively simple, the sleekly styled furniture van der Rohe designed often used expensive materials that put them out of reach of ordinary people. Here are a few of his best know works that have become the foundation on which Mid-Century Modern is based.

Barcelona chair:
Probably Mies van der Rohe’s most important chair is the International Style icon known as the Barcelona chair. As modern a classic as when it was released in 1929, it is found from the mid-century modern home to the modern urban building lobby. Design credit is shared with Lilly Reich for the German Pavilion at the International Expo of 1929, which was held in Barcelona, hence the name. Originally of bolted metal, the chair was redesigned in the mid 1950’s using solid stainless steel construction. The design was sold to Knoll in 1965 and production has never ceased.

MR20 chair:
Designed in 1927 of tubular steel with painted caning, newer versions by Knoll have banded leather seats and back. Again, the cantilevered seat and one-piece construction makes this an icon of the early 20th century. Marcel Breuer, a Bauhaus designer of the same era whose use of leather on his famous Wassily chair inspired van der Rohe. There are also variations on the theme using padded leather strips with arms and as a rocking chair.

Brno Chair:
Again working with Lilly Reich, this 1929/30 was designed for the Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic. It is another classic modern piece with a steel frame whose design was sold to Knoll in the 1950’s. It is comprised of a single piece of metal bent to form the back support, arms, legs, and base. The ingeniously designed cantilevered seat and back were upholstered in leather. Originally of tubular or flat steel, the more popular flat were in stainless steel with later versions favoring chrome plating. It was simply groundbreaking for 1929.

Find out more about Mies van der Rohe on Wikipedia.

Learn more about these chairs by visiting the Museum of Modern Art’s website:

Barcelona chair
Brno chair
Wassily chair
by Marcel Breuer