Design

The Panton Chair

Verner Panton (1926-1998)
Design Museum Denmark, Copenhagen Se kort

By Charlotte Jul, skribent, editor and curator, 2006

Shape and colour

The Panton Chair was the first single-form injection- moulded plastic chair in the world, anticipating the 21st century in many ways. First of all the chair was moulded in the new material: plastic. Secondly, it was in one piece. Panton’s pioneering style has inspired leading present-day designers such as Karim Rashid, Ron Arad, Ross Lovegrove and Philippe Starck. 
Panton’s wildly shaped furniture, loud colours and tacky plastic were unpopular at first. Plastic was definitely a low-status material. Who on earth would want it in their living room? Popular Danish taste did not quite know what to make of him. And it is always easy to criticise what you don’t understand. As a result, the Danish ‘enfant terrible’ moved to Switzerland - his potential was appreciated abroad. 

Innovative furniture 

Today, no one doubts Verner Panton’s visual talent and he has finally achieved the recognition in Denmark he deserves. Verner Panton is currently one of the most recognised Danish designer in the world, because his design has come into fashion again. Producers are fighting to put his lamps, textiles, carpets and furniture into production. 
Panton’s sweeping shapes and atypical seats challenged the common way of using the body. But in those days, people found it hard to understand why they should lounge about or lie in a chair or climb up into a furniture tower, when they were normally used to sitting opposite each other. 

Bright-coloured plastic 

Panton’s colour scheme and curiosity concerning materials challenged the hand-made wooden furniture of the day and was, seen in hindsight, quite revolutionary. Panton, the self-exiled Dane, had no inhibitions when it came to colours, which he believed had mood-altering qualities. Today, strong colours have had a revival in the world of furniture, handicrafts and design and plastic is now an accepted material that is no longer in bad taste. Verner Panton boldly went against the tide. For that he deserves respect! 

The Panton Chair, 1960, Designmuseet. Photo: Pernille Klemp og Ole Woldbye.
Design

Did you know?

Source: Mathias Remmele & Alexander von Vegesack: Verner Panton. The Collected Works. s. 78.Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, 2000.

Fame and recognition often leave behind. Panton designed his solid plastic chair in 1960, but it took around seven years before the chair was put into production. For years Panton traveled around Europe with prototype and drawings under his arm in search of a manufacturer. It became the development department of the furniture manufacturer Vitra, who got their eyes on the chair's potential and decided to invest in Panton. In turn, it turned out to be worth it - as in August 1967 the defunct Danish design magazine Mobilia presented the chair and it became an international sensation.

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Design and Arts, 2006

The concept of a plastic cantilever stacking chair was first conceived by the German architect Mies van der Rohe before the Second World War; however, it came to Denmark after the war, when several young designers began to work with the concept seriously. Indeed, several chairs were created in man-made materials, including plastic, at the end of the 1950s. Both Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames presented shell chairs that remain in production today.
However, the shell that one sat in was made of another material, or was cast in a separate work process. The dream was to create a chair that was cast in one piece, and this was successfully achieved by Verner Panton. The complex curves in the leg of the chair, seat and back provide the constructive strength (despite the fact that initially it was further reinforced). 

Panton worked as an assistant to Arne Jacobsen and worked, among other things, on the development of ‘Myren’. However, Panton went much further than Jacobsen in creating an organic, modelled visual expression in new materials in unusual, in vibrant colours. In addition to furniture and lamps, he created modern interiors that were unlike anything created before, but became style icons for an entire generation. However, he was something of an ‘enfant terrible’ in Denmark, and most of his life works were produced outside of the country – he lived in Switzerland and cooperated with businesses all over the world.

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