Barcelona Ottomans

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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In 1929, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe introduced a line of furniture that included Barcelona chairs, Barcelona ottomans, and other tables and lounges. The furniture was to be housed in a building called the German Pavilion (also designed by Mies) during the Barcelona World Exposition, a building that was meant to house the Reception for the Pavilion and provide a base camp for The King and Queen of Spain. The design of the Pavilion and the furniture has become a classic example of Modern design in the International Style.

The fact that royalty were to use the same space as the furniture gave Mies a strong starting point for designing the Barcelona ottomans, chairs, and daybeds. He recognized the need for producing a design that bridged the luxury of royalty with the concerns of Modernism, including mass production and design for use, not decoration. It also gave Mies a chance to develop his furniture design sensibility, as it would apply to marrying elegance with simplicity.

The Look of Barcelona Ottomans

Barcelona ottomans are designed to sit in front of or next to Barcelona chairs. The base of the ottomans, like the chairs, is made of smooth steel in a scissor design, which allows the pad of the ottoman to sit gracefully above the floor. The scissor arrangement of the steel bars eliminates vertical lines, emphasizing the horizontals and contributing to a sense of stability in the ottoman.

After the Exposition ended, Mies continued exploring the Barcelona line with the daybed (1930) and the Barcelona table (1930). Unlike the original chairs and ottomans, the daybed and the table use strong vertical legs to produce a more casual look than the original Barcelona series.


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