Verner Panton (1926 - 1998)
Verner Panton’s legacy is apparent even to the unsophisticated enthusiast. He is best known for re-imagining the form of the chair although the true scope of his work is much greater. Light fixtures and fully conceived interior environments also belong to his impressive body of work. During his career, he created innovative and futuristic designs in a variety of materials, especially plastics, and in vibrant colors. His style was very "1960s" but regained popularity at the end of the 20th century; as of 2004, Panton's most well-known furniture models are still in production (at Vitra, among others).
Panton was born in 1926 on the Danish Island of Funen and trained as an architectural engineer at Odense Technical College, then onto the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, graduating in 1951.
During the first two years of his career, 1950-1952, he worked for well known countryman, Arne Jacobsen, before embarking on a journey to pursue his own ambitions. The fruit of his labors proved to be wonderfully innovative.
He became well known for his innovative architectural proposals, including a collapsible house (1955), the Cardboard House and the Plastic House (1960). Near the end of the 1950s, his chair designs became more and more unconventional, with no legs or discernible back. In 1960 Panton was the designer of the very first single-form injection-moulded plastic chair. the Stacking chair or S chair, which would become his most famous and mass-produced design.
Panton took an approach to design that was decidedly non-traditional. His chairs were often constructed from molded plastic and steel wire frames whose resemblance to traditional chairs is sometimes only slight. Yet, the fluidity of line and the landscape-like features of his furniture are the aesthetic rewards of this break from tradition. Panton created such features with the most advanced techniques and production processes of his time. His 1960, self-titled chair was the first of its kind. It was formed from a single piece of molded plastic and represented a unique synthesis of design and technique. He built on this achievement when he created his “S” chair. Similar to the “Panton” in form it was made of a single piece of cantilevered plywood that gives one a sense of weightlessness when sitting in it. Another notable first was the advent of inflatable furniture of which Panton was the father. His prototype was a pneumatic stool consisting of four separate, air-filled chambers. Although Panton did not bring pneumatic furniture to the mass market it was his designs that inspired those who did.
His work took a different turn when in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s he began experimenting with designing entire interior environments - radical and psychedelic interiors that were an ensemble of his curved furniture, wall upholstering, textiles and lighting. He made use of rich colors and myriad kinds of fabrics. These experiments became a series of elaborate spaces that evoke nothing less than a sense of the fantastic. They are fantastic because they are superlative and also because they embody futuristic motifs and seemingly otherworldly surroundings. In this sense he calls upon one’s imagination to respond to his environments creatively. He is best known for the interior of the cruise ship Loreley that sailed the Rhine done on commission by Bayer AG, and the Grand Europa hotel in Lac Lugano, Switzerland that utilized circular patterns and cylindrical furniture.