The Brno MR50 cantilever chair is one of my very favorite iconic chairs. And these two, which are circa late 20th century, are outstanding and in my favorite color….black. The “official” holder of the license to produce the Brno chair is Knoll; however, many claim the design is in the public domain and able to be produced by anyone. And, they do. One of the best companies making them and, in my opinion, closest in quality to Knoll, is the maker of this pair, Gordon International. The chair was designed in 1930 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with much assistance, albeit unrewarded in her lifetime, from Lilly Reich for the renowned Tugendhat House in Brno, Czech Republic. The form is influenced by and roughly based on the earlier cantilevered chair designs by Marcel Breuer and Mart Stam. Interestingly, although there were 24 tubular Brno chairs in the Tugendhat House, there was only one flat bar example which was in the master bedroom. Due to this fact the flat bar chair was not put into mass production until after 1958 when Phillip Johnson requested of Knoll to produce them for his design of the Four Seasons restaurant. The original design was tweaked somewhat, in particular adding padding to the seat and back for more comfort, with approval from Mies.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born Maria Ludwig Michael Mies on March 27, 1886 in Germany. He was commonly referred to as Mies. He changed his name to reflect a higher societal standing. He is considered one of the pioneers of modernist design in both architecture and furnishings. Early in his career he worked in his father’s stone carving shop and several design firms. Then, moving to Berlin, he worked alongside Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius. He was director of the famed Bauhaus, an influential school of modern design. But in 1932 fled Germany and the Nazi regime, along with their opposition to modernism, by moving to the United States and Chicago specifically where he headed the architecture school at the Armour Institute of Technology now the Illinois Institute of Technology. Some of his famed architectural designs are the Barcelona Pavilion, 1929; Villa Tugendhat, 1930; Crown Hall on the IIT campus; IBM Plaza, Chicago; 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago; the Farnsworth House; and many more. He is credited with the design of the Barcelona chair and table, the Brno Chair, and the Tugendhat chair. Mies died after a successful career on August 17, 1969.
Lilly Reich was born in Berlin in 1885. In 1908 using her expertise in embroidery she went to work for the Wiener Werkstatte, a visual arts production company of designers, artists, and architects, of the famed designer, Josef Hoffmann. By 1911 she returned to Berlin and began to design furniture and clothing and work as a window decorator. That was the beginning of a full and successful career which included work at the Deutscher Werkbund, a group similar to the Wiener Werkstatte; designing a working-class flat in the Berlin Gewerkschaftshaus; becoming the first woman elected to the governing board of the Deutscher Werkbund; and working at the Messeamt in Frankfurt organizing and designing trade fairs. It was at the latter where she met Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the two began a collaboration on many projects together including the Barcelona Pavilion and the Tugendhat House along with their furnishings. Lilly was very talented but, according to the times because of being a woman, unrecognized in her accomplishments during her lifetime. She had a personal relationship with Mies but did not immigrate to the United States staying in Germany. Consequently, after the bombing of her studio in 1943, she was sent to a forced labor organization where she remained until 1945. She was released at the end of the war and began working on the revival of the Deutsche Werkbund but died in 1950, due to complications of her internment, before she saw its re-establishment.
Gordon International, Freehold, New Jersey was established in 1967 and provides solutions for interiors specifiers. They now have 20 sales teams across North American and a showroom presence in most major cities. They have a production facility of upholstery, assembly, and manufacturing output with an expansive inventory. Their primary product design now coming out of Italy with their established relationships with Italy’s most successful design teams but still producing design classics. They provide furnishings for both contract and residential needs.
If you are looking for an iconic and classic pair of chairs…….look no further. Make these yours.