van der Rohe said his work expressed and echoed these words of St.
Augustine: "Beauty is the splendor of Truth." A spare
disciplined beauty was what he was going after with his design for the Barcelona Pavilion (the famous German entry at the
1929 Barcelona Exposition), a De Stijl-esque composition,
asymmetrical and rectilinear, of glass, steel, green Tinian marble,
onyx, and travertine with
reflecting pools lined in black glass and a sculpture court. A
study in opacity and transparency with its heavy scarlet drapes
and glass walls and the flowing open plan. It was one of the most beautiful modern buildings ever built -
inside were a few exquisitely perfect objects - a couple of
Barcelona chairs, half a dozen Barcelona stools and a couple of
glass-topped tables. The Barcelona Pavilion was taken apart
at the end of the exposition and no longer exists . . . but the
Barcelona Chair was made to endure!
has - the Barcelona Chair is a recognizable classic, emblematic of
modernist simplicity and elegance. The modified X-shaped
steel frame has something delicate yet strong in its curvature, as
if the chair, a design for sedentary pleasure, was about to fly
away like some marvelous flying seat. Its buttoned cushions
and rich aniline-dyed Spinneybeck leather recontextualize the act
of sitting, making the most quotidian acts - relaxing to read the
paper or enjoy a late-night bourbon - take on a wonderfully
oxymoronic spare opulence! The frame supports a webbing of
broad leather straps over which pillows covered in the same
luxurious leather rest. The leather of the cushions
(including the welting and buttons) come from a single cowhide and
the webbing of straps is dyed to match. Everything is
hand-welted and hand-tufted and the steel frame is hand buffed to
a perfect chrome finish.
famously said, "A chair is a very difficult object. A
skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is
and Modern Living, Helmut Reuter, Birgit Schulte
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