Verner Panton in His Studio

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Verner Panton, born on the 13th of February 1926 and passing away on the 5th of September 1998, has left an undeniable mark on the design world. As one of Denmark’s most influential 20th-century furniture and interior designers, Panton introduced innovative and futuristic designs, predominantly using vibrant plastics. The popularity of his style soared during the 1960s and saw a resurgence in the late 20th century. His renowned furniture models, including those produced by Vitra, remain in production today.

Verner Panton’s Early Life and Education

Before starting his illustrious career, Verner Panton was an experienced artist in Odense, Denmark. He later pursued his passion for design at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen, graduating in 1951. After graduating, Panton worked at Arne Jacobsen’s architectural practice from 1950 to 1952. During this period, he began developing his unique design style and approach.

Verner Panton’s Independent Pursuits

After gaining valuable experience under Jacobsen, Panton started his design and architectural office. Here, he gained recognition for his innovative architectural proposals, which included a collapsible house in 1955 and the Cardboard House and Plastic House in 1960. During the late 1950s, Verner Panton began experimenting with unconventional chair designs, culminating in 1960 with the first single-form injection-molded plastic chair, the Stacking chair or S chair. This period also saw Panton experimenting with radical and psychedelic interiors, as evidenced in his famous series of interior designs for Bayer’s product exhibition in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Influential Career Milestones of Verner Panton

From 1950 to 1952, Verner Panton was under the mentorship of architect Arne Jacobsen. During this time, he honed his skills in furniture design, focusing mainly on the ‘Ant’ chair. Panton traveled extensively after leaving Jacobsen’s office, establishing international contacts with design colleagues, manufacturers, and dealers. This network would prove instrumental in his future endeavors.

In the mid-1950s, Panton explored the concept of a chair made from a single element. His innovative approach was showcased in a competition organized by Neue Gemeinschaft für Wohnkultur (WK-Möbel). Here, he presented a furniture collection that included a stackable chair with a seat and backrest as a single unit. Despite not winning any prizes, his prefabricated weekend house, the All Round House, was produced in 1957.

Signature Design Pieces by Verner Panton

In 1958, Panton took on the task of redesigning his parents’ inn, Kom-igen, on the island of Fünen. This project marked one of Panton’s first major commissions. He designed the interior, including a one-floor extension with a roof terrace, using shades of red for warmth and dark colors for table linens. During this time, Panton also created the Cone Chair and developed a flexible system of fabrics with geometric patterns to divide the room.

Verner Panton’s design prowess extended to the restaurant of the Astoria Hotel in Trondheim, Norway, in 1960. Here, he employed textile design for floors, walls, and ceilings to create a unified image. The chairs used were various versions of the cone chairs. This period also saw Panton introduce the first inflatable seating elements made of transparent plastic in furniture history.

Cone Chair by Verner Panton

Recognition and Legacy

In 1961, Verner Panton’s furniture, textiles, and lamps featured prominently in the legendary black book of the design magazine Mobilia and the Pfister furniture showrooms in Zurich. His Shell Lamps were first presented in Frankfurt in 1964, while his Flying Chairs became a sensation during the International Furniture Fair in Cologne. The design magazine Mobilia presented the Panton Chair to the public for the first time in 1967.

Notable Architectural Projects by Verner Panton

Let’s take a journey through some of Verner Panton’s notable architectural projects:

  • Astoria Hotel and Restaurant, Trondheim, Norway: Panton’s genius came to life as he transformed the interior of this establishment. He used his Geometry I to IV textile designs to create a cohesive look, adorning the floors, walls, and ceilings. Intimate seating areas were crafted using various versions of the iconic cone chairs.

Astoria Hotel and Restaurant, Trondheim, Norway

  • Visiona I & Visiona II: Commissioned by Bayer corporation, Verner Panton transformed these temporary showrooms into experimental interior landscapes. His bold and unique use of vibrant colors and organic forms made these designs truly iconic.

Visiona II

  • Spiegel Publishing House: This project is one of Panton’s most significant interior design achievements. He devised a comprehensive design scheme for the company’s Hamburg buildings. While some elements have been modified over time, the original canteen remains a testament to Panton’s design prowess.

Spiegel Publishing House

  • Private House at Binningen: Verner Panton saw this project as an opportunity to showcase his works. Notable features include a stunning shell ceiling in the dining room and a Living Sculpture, now housed in Paris’s Centre Pompidou.

Private House at Binningen

  • Gruner & Jahr Publishing House, Hamburg: Panton’s extensive commission for this publishing house showcased his ability to create impressive interior design solutions. Visual illusions, such as a mirrored ceiling and a three-dimensional appearing floor in the canteen, left a lasting impact.

Gruner & Jahr Publishing House, Hamburg

  • Pantorama: Commissioned for the 1979 Swiss furniture fair in Basel, Panton’s monochrome color spaces created an atmosphere that was simultaneously archaic and highly artificial.

Pantorama

  • Color Spaces: Panton’s exhibition at Gallery Littmann in Basel 1996 featured eight monochromatically painted circular rooms. These physical representations demonstrated the power of color on perception.

Colour Spaces by Verner Panton

  • Exhibition Light and Colour at the Trapholt: Verner Panton’s final design project, this exhibition served as a representative cross-section of his remarkable creations. It showcased his extraordinary use of colors.

Exhibition Light and Colour at the Trapholt

Most Notable Design Projects by Verner Panton

Verner Panton’s innovative and iconic designs spanned across different materials and furniture types. Some of his most notable projects include:

The 1950s

  • Bachelor-Chair (Year: 1953 / 1955): A serial production model armchair that can be taken apart and consists of bent steel tubing in N-form connected by two crossbars. Available in fabric or suede upholstery, with or without cushion. 

Bachelor Chair by Verner Panton

  • Panton One, known as the “Tivoli Chair “(Year: 1955): A serial production model with a seat and backrest forming a single unit, separate base frame made of bent steel tubing. 

Tivoli Chair or Panton One

  • S-Chair (Year: 1956 – 1965): A stackable chair made of plywood, with the edge of the seat slightly tilted upwards. It came in two different versions: Model 275 and Model 276. 

S-Chair by Verner Panton

  • Heart Cone Chair (Year: 1958 – 1960): A serial production model part of the Series K (Kraemmerhusstole), Cone Chairs. It consists of a cone-shaped metal frame that rotates at its base on a cross-shaped metal foot. 

Heart Cone Chair

  • Panton Chair (Year: 1958): The Panton Chair is Verner Panton’s best-known and most significant design. Its form has made it an icon of chair design in the twentieth century.

Panton Chair by Vitra

  • Wire collection (Year: 1959 / 1960): A small series of table and chairs made of wire mesh based on the basic forms of cone, cylinder, and circle.

Wire Collection by Verner Panton

  • Plexiglass-Series (Year: 1959 / 1960): This serial production model series consists of a footstool, chair, and armchair, all molded from a section of acrylic glass.

Plexiglass Series by Verner Panton

  • Modular Chair (Year: 1959 / 1960): The Modular Chair, created during this period, is a serial production model characterized by its round backrest and armrest. Made of chrome-plated steel tubing and upholstered with jersey fabric and foam, this chair series includes a chair, armchair, low stool, and low table. Notably, these chairs can be connected. Plus-linje, DK is the manufacturer behind this exquisite creation.

Modular Chair by Plus-Linje

From 1960 to 1965

  • Moon-Lamp (Year: 1960): The Moon-Lamp comprises numerous ring-shaped, lacquered white discs suspended around a central bulb. These discs conceal the bulb and function as reflectors, diffusing gentle light throughout the room. Manufactured by Louis Poulsen, DK, and by Verpan, DK since 2007.

Moon Lamp by Louis Poulsen

  • Studioline (Year: 1961): Modular furniture system that offers versatile seating and storage options. Made from wood with teak or rosewood veneer or lacquered in various colors, this innovative design features box elements that can be combined or dismantled. Manufactured by France & Soen, DK.

Studioline by France & Søn

  • Upholstered furniture range Storz&Palmer (Year: 1962 / 1963): Storz&Palmer introduced a new range of upholstered furniture featuring sculpturally curved seating on casters. The upholstery is made of Unika Vaev cloth, creating a distinct and stylish look.

Storz & Palmer Upholstered Furniture by Verner Panton

  • Shell lamps “Fun” (Year: 1963): These lamps feature translucent round discs delicately connected with small metal rings. The number and length of the chains of discs allow an array of shapes to be created. Manufactured by J.Lüber from CH and Verpan from DK since 2004.

Verpan Fun Ceiling Lamp

  • Series 400 (Year: 1963 / 1967): Stool and an armchair with a chrome-plated steel tubing frame and Helanca upholstery. The armchair offers adjustable backrests and height. Manufactured by Gebr. Thonet, D.

Series 400 by Thonet

  • Series 420 (Year: 1963 / 1967): Modular furniture system based on cube shapes. It includes an armchair, a stool, and a side table, all featuring a sub-frame made of chrome-plated steel tubing sections connected by spherical connectors. Manufactured by Gebr. Thonet.

Series 420 by Thonet

  • Partyset (Year: 1965): Storing accessories consisting of six cylindrical elements of different sizes that can be nested together. It features a bar section on casters for storing accessories and five seating elements. Manufactured by A. Sommer, D (1965-1967), Bisterfeld & Weiss, D (1967-1971), and Verpan, DK (since 2010).

Verner Panton Partyset

From 1966 to 1970

  • Ilumesa (Year: 1969 / 1970): The Ilumesa is a unique lamp and side table combination. Made of vacuum-molded Cellidor, it features two stacked cylinder-shaped sections, with the lower section housing the light source. Manufactured by Louis Poulsen, DK, Innovation Randers A/S, and Verpan, DK, throughout the years.

Illumesa by Louis Poulsen

  • Soft Line (Year: 1969 / 1970): Series composed of sofa, armchair, and stool. Made with a sub-frame of plastic shell integrated with foam upholstery elements, it offers versatility, with the stool doubling as a tabletop. Initially designed for the Visiona 2 exhibition. Manufactured by Hermann Miller/Vitra, CH.

Soft Line by Hermann Miller

  • Round cupboards (Year: 1969 / 1970): They come in three sizes and feature oval sliding doors, offering versatile storage options with shelving and clothes rails. Initially designed for the Visiona 2 exhibition, the cupboards were later produced in 1981 with a slight modification – a natural wood veneer surface. Manufactured by Karl Danzer and Hermann Maier, D.

Round Cupboards by Verner Panton for Karl Danzer

  • Cloverleaf-Sofa (Year: 1969 / 1970): Formed from a base plate providing the seating area and a narrow, snake-like backrest, this sofa offers numerous niches for seating. Manufactured by Metzeler Schaum, D, Mira-X, CH. Verpan, DK since 2011 and Outdoor version since 2016.

Cloverleaf Sofa by Verner Panton for Verpan

  • Wave (Year: 1969 / 1970): Wave features fabric-covered foam sections available in seven different designs, providing the flexibility to create various seating group formations. Manufactured by Metzeler Schaum, D. Verpan, DK since 2014.

Verpan Wave Sofa by Verner Panton

  • Ball lamps (Year: 1969 / 1970): The Ball lamps can be regarded as an evolution of the Fun lamps, incorporating plastic balls instead of discs. They offer a diverse range of shapes and colors, showcasing the innovative design choices made by the manufacturers. The Ball lamps were produced by J. Lüber, CH, and Verpan, DK, from 2005 to 2020.

Ball Lamp by J. Lüber

The 1970s

  • Pantonova (Year: 1971): The Pantonova series, designed for the Varna restaurant in Arhus, DK, features wire furniture with parallel wire rods and open sides. It offers versatile seating options for individual or connected fixed upholstery and can be arranged into various formations. Additionally, the series includes shelving systems, tables, and accessories. The manufacturer of this series was Fritz Hansen.

Pantonova Series by Montana

  • System 1-2-3 (Year: 1973 / 1974): Introducing the S-shaped seat in cantilever form, a remarkable creation by Verner Panton. This series, consisting of 10 models, offers a variety of options with different backrests, seat heights, and various types of feet. Manufactured by Fritz Hansen, DK, and since 2010, by Verpan, DK.

System 1-2-3 Fritz Hansen

  • Panton Relaxer (Year: 1974): The Panton Relaxer comprises two bent wooden runners connected by slats, providing a comfortable seating experience with foam upholstery. Manufactured by Rosenthal Studio-line.

Panton Relaxer by Roenthal Studio-line

  • Series Emmenthaler (Year: 1979): This collection comprises an armchair, recliner, and two-seater sofa, all featuring a distinctive hole-shaped opening in the upper section of the backrest. Crafted with a sturdy steel frame and upholstered with foam, the furniture is then carefully covered in fabric. Manufactured by Cassina.

Emmenthaler by Vener Panton for Cassina

Conclusion

Verner Panton’s contributions to architecture and design are nothing short of revolutionary. His innovative designs have redefined perceptions about forms and functionality, influencing generations of designers. The characteristic twist in conventional seating designs and the use of bold, vibrant colors are testimony to his creative spirit. Panton’s exploration of new materials, such as wire rods, foam upholstery, and shaped wood, has not only stretched the boundaries of design but also challenged the manufacturing norms of his time. The enduring popularity of his creations, as evidenced by their continued production by renowned manufacturers, underscores his undiminished relevance in contemporary architecture and design. Thus, Verner Panton’s legacy continues to inspire, invite innovation, and reshape our understanding of space and form.

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