As a real estate firm centered on design, we recognize how profound impact a truly special piece of furniture can have within our spaces. On that note, perhaps no other piece of furniture is a more iconic staple of Modernist design than the Barcelona chair.
History of the Barcelona chair
The Barcelona chair is the collaborative brainchild of Modernist master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. Initially designed for the German Pavilion at the International Exposition of 1929 in Barcelona, the chair was intended as seating for Spanish royalty overseeing the opening exhibitions of the ceremony. In this way, the piece was contrary to many Modernist designs of the time, which were most often intended for the “common man.” This particular chair, on the other hand, came to signify a structuralist sophistication coveted by novice and seasoned architects alike for their personal homes and professional projects.
Design of the Barcelona chair
Perhaps what makes the Barcelona chair so striking is its simple elegance, and how directly it expresses the iconic Mies van der Rohe sentiment that “less is more.” A tribute to the marriage of modern design and craftsmanship, what appears a simple fixture is quite complex to construct, with a hand-ground and hand-buffed frame, and upholstery made with 40 individual panels. The chair is now manufactured by Knoll in an almost entirely handcrafted process, with a facsimile of Mies van der Rohe’s signature stamped into the frame. Available in both chrome and stainless steel, the chair’s frame has been redesigned as a single seamless, smooth piece of metal. Upholstered in leather of various shades, the iconic design adapts beautifully to each space.
You can find a Barcelona chair at every one of our communities. Incorporating the iconic piece of furniture into our properties helps us to express our deep appreciation for Modernism and for craftsmanship. For us, it serves as a reminder of the great designers who have created the legacy that enables Modernist design to continue to flourish — and functions as a beautiful piece of furniture to admire and use.
Design permeates every corner of our communities. Across our multi-family properties, we utilize furniture designed by globally renowned Knoll to craft spaces that are sleek, modern and comfortable. Not just purveyors of elegant and stunning design, Knoll also has a history entangled with our own, beginning back in 1938.
Knoll was founded in 1938 by Hans G. Knoll, a German immigrant based in the United States. Familiar with the seminal Bahaus School of Design and Modernist masters like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he founded Knoll on the belief that modern architects would need functional, modern furnishings.
Later, Hans Knoll engaged with (and then literally got engaged to) Florence Schust, who studied with Mies van der Rohe at the Armour Institute in Chicago, and worked in the architectural offices from Gropius and Breuer in Boston. Her understanding of Modernist architecture, and the Bauhaus and Walter Gropius himself, transformed the Knoll approach to furniture design, placing new focus on offering objects that represented design excellence, technological innovation and mass production.
Their strong vision attracted high-profile collaborators, such as Isamu Noguchi, who contributed to a collection of furnishings now heralded as classics in the pantheon of modern design. With a repertoire of pieces spanning including the Wassily chair, the Barcelona chair, the Tulip chair; over 40 Knoll designs can be found in the permanent design collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
As seminal collaborators with the Modernist architecture discipline, Knoll is a natural fit for our modern residential and commercial spaces. Their executive designs embody elegance, craftsmanship and emblematic details across seating, tables and desks. The thoughtful and artistic creations of Knoll bring expansive history, elevated design and of course, comfort, to our communities.
For our projects, design doesn’t stop on the outside of our buildings. We carefully curate each and every interior to be an activating space that is at once beautiful and inviting. As part of that careful curation, many of our spaces feature furniture designed by Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese American artist, landscape architect, sculptor and furniture designer.
The Style of Isamu Noguchi
Born in 1904, Isamu Noguchi became one of the 20th century’s most critically acclaimed and important sculptors. His sculptural work covered a wide range of creations, spanning from sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture and set designs. Midway through his career, Noguchi became inspired by the idea of a more reduced form, focusing on an abstract and Modernist approach to create intriguing designs that elicited emotional reactions.
“Everything is sculpture,” Isamu Noguchi once said. “Any material, any idea without hindrance born into space, I consider sculpture.” Noguchi believed that as a sculptor, he could shape space to give it order and meaning, contextualized by the surroundings in which it existed.
It was only natural that furniture fell into his wheelhouse. Perhaps his most popular work, Noguchi designed a glass-topped table in 1947 to be produced by Herman Miller. The base of the table is made up of two identical wooden pieces, reversed and connected, and topped with a heavy plate glass top. When first sold, the table was marketed in the Herman Miller catalogue as “sculpture-for-use” and “design for production.” Noguchi strongly believed in producing his designs for mass market in order to bring fine art into the home.
At Optima, we are proud to showcase Noguchi’s furniture within our own spaces, designs which serve to amplify and activate the evocative Modernist exteriors and interiors of our buildings.