Thursday, October 29, 2009
Now I know that a chair is not a room (and the last photo is a stool, not a chair), but there's something about this chair that has always moved me and in my mind can give a room a certain je ne sais quoi. I also find it interesting that the Mies Van de Rohe chair that I've been in love with for so long (and have put off acquiring because I can't bear the thought of seeing it become a cat scratching post) was designed around 1929. I have a very large collections of late 20s early 30s clothing thanks to my vintage dealer David, so I know there's something about that period that I'm drawn to.
I also love the story behind their conception. Some of you are no doubt very up on designer furniture and it's history, but just in case, I thought you might enjoy the tale: Ludwig Mies Van de Rohe was one of the leading modernist architects of his time. When the German government commissioned him to build a Pavilion at the 1929 Barcelona World Arts Fair, he created a glorious glass and steel building that used four kinds of marble. Then his mind turned to designing the furniture that would be used and this is where the blood sweat and tears happened.
Mies said he knew he needed to create "an important chair, a very elegant chair and costly. It had to be monumental. You couldn't just use a kitchen chair." A year after the event, he was quoted as saying, "The chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has ever tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems--the chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a sky scraper than a chair."
Bless his heart. And like all good stories, there's the wonderful payoff: the chairs ended up serving as thrones for the King and Queen of Spain when they visited the Pavilion. At the time the Barcelona Chairs were the only furniture in the whole building. Can you imagine how beautiful it must've been?
True to a modernist tale, there's also a delicious twist of irony: when Mies re-designed the original chair in 1950 in order to make use of stainless steel, it meant that the whole frame could be made from one fluid piece of metal. But Mies was a Bauhaus designer (meaning someone who believed in functional furniture that could be mass produced for the working class), and it turns out that the Barcelona Chair is actually both expensive and difficult to mass produce.
Is it just me, or do you find this whole story wonderfully gratifying as well?