His great success in the Stuttgart Weißenhof exhibition bestowed a very special assignment on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1928: The German government consigned him to be art director and to construct the German pavilion for the world exhibition in Barcelona. The "Barcelona-Pavilion" was completed in May 1929 and was pulled down again as early as in 1930, it has been reconstructed as it is regarded as one of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's main works.
However, the furniture designed by van der Rohe on the same occasion is more long-lived, today it is known as "Barcelona Furniture". The most prominent item in this group is the so-called Barcelona Chair. The Barcelona Chair, together with two matching stools and two variants of a table, was not so much a model for an industrial mass production, but intended to be more of a ceremonial piece of furniture: Two Barcelona Chairs were made for Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia, the Spanish royal couple, who joined the exhibition's opening ceremony in these chairs.
The ensemble of chair, stool and table is dominated by an airy and elegant style. The frame follows the classic form of the curule chair on the one hand, but also resembles a cast iron chair by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1825), however, its x-shaped and subtly curved legs make for a groundbreaking calmness and airiness. In the case of the Barcelona Chair, the legs were not made of modern steel tubes, but of chromed and polished strip metal. Seat and backrest were leather- and button-upholstered. The chair's airy and transparent character is made up by the absence of a stabilizing support between the x-shaped legs.
The Barcelona Furniture, which was also inspired by the close co-operation with Lilly Reich, was produced only in small numbers up until Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's emigration. The furniture's mass production did not start before the 1950s, when van der Rohe gave production rights to the company "Knoll International", whereas they used high gloss polished stainless steel for the frame. Over the eighty years that have passed since it was invented, the Barcelona Chair has not lost in modernity and elegance - which is why it can be regarded as a timeless classic of design history.
Cf.: Solà-Morales, Ignasi de et al: Mies van der Rohe. Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona 1993.