Panton Chair Turns 50

published in: Design By Marcia Argyriades, 31 December 2009

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"How to undress in front of your husband"/Photo series with Amanda Lear // photo © Brian Duffy
Image Courtesy of Vitra

Panton chair turns 50
text by Marcia Argyriades for Yatzer
 
Coming so close to the end of the year we found it our obligation and our pleasure to invite you to a birthday party…a birthday party for a chair which despite its age will never grow old and we will never ever get bored of it!  The Panton Chair by Verner Panton celebrated its 50th birthday//anniversary in 2009 as it reached the half century mark.  It’s amazing to see how many technological and design changes and advancements occurred within these fifty years however this chair remained faithful to its original design.    

photo © Archiv Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

Undoubtedly, the Panton Chair is Verner Panton’s widely recognized and perhaps most significant design.  Its form today may seem recognizable and ordinary as it has been on circulation for the past fifty years, but we have to admit that it holds a rather unusual and remarkable form even for today’s standards.  The innovation and the production technology related to this chair have righteously made it an iconic chair in 20th century design.

photo © Louis Schankenburg, Kopenhagen
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

Verner Panton, a protégé of Arne Jacobsen had been experimenting with the idea of the Panton Chair since 1956 as he sent his design to a furniture competition held by furniture firm WK- Möbel.  Panton clearly depicted the design which would be finally given to this iconic chair in his 1958/1959 sketches.  Some time later the same year he continued into creating a full scale model of the chair which was originally made from polystyrene, but was not suitable for sitting on; nonetheless, this model chair along with his sketches would help Panton find a manufacture. 

Verner Panton and Percy von Halling-Koch with the chair model at the Mobilia Club, c. 1961
photo © Panton Design, Basel
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

However, in 1959 the chair which was conceived was the first cantilevered single form molded plastics chair which was created by one piece of material.  It is important to note however that it wasn’t until the early sixties that Panton contacted Vitra and decided to develop the chair to the production series of the Vitra collection.  From 1965 to 1967, Vitra and Panton worked closely together to develop and perfect this unique chair and it wasn’t until August 1967 that this iconic chair was unveiled before the eyes of the public.

photo © Archiv Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

photo © Panton Design, Basel
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

The all time classic stackable S-shaped chair has enjoyed periods of glory and splendor trend-setting times throughout its manufacturing despite the change in materials.  The chair has been produced in four different versions from different types of plastic and with the aid of different types of production technology.  The reasons for the change in material were both financial and aesthetic; all versions were developed in close cooperation of Vitra and Verner Panton.

photo © Louis Schnakenburg, Kopenhagen
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

photo © Panton Design, Basel
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

The Panton Chair has definitely been our favorite; now it’s also children’s favorite chair!  I guess that even after 50 years we’re thrilled with its single form design, the sleek yet elegant shape, the idea that it is stackable, the vibrant and cheerful colors and the smooth curves.  We’ve seen them in houses, in nurseries, in hotels, in restaurants, we’ve even seem them in a church by Qubus and a Music Hall by Zaha Hadid …that’s what makes this chair always so unique yet, so ordinary!  
 
Happy Birthday Panton!

 

St. Bartholomew's Church by QUBUS in the village of Chodovice, Eastern Bohemia

photo © Louis Schnakenburg, Kopenhagen
Image Courtesy of Verner Panton

photo © Ari Markopoulos
Image Courtesy of Vitra

 

JS Bach / Zaha Hadid Architects Chamber Music Hall at Manchester Art Gallery
for Manchester International Festival
Images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects © Luke Hayes

The production history of the Panton Chair is as follows:

1959: the concept of Panton chair is born

1967-1968// Initial series production from cold-molded, fiber-glass reinforced polyester resin, painted in various colors.  Manufacturer:  Herman Miller//Vitra

1968-1971// Second series model made of polyurethane rigid foam, painted in various colors.  Manufacturer: Herman Miller//Vitra

1971-1979// Third series model made of colored thermoplastic polystyrene (Luran S). The chairs made of this material can be identified by the ridges below the bend between the seating area and the base.  Manufacturer: Vitra; in the USA until 1975 Herman Miller

1979-1983// The Panton Chair is not in production.

1983-present day// Second version of the chair made of painted polyurethane rigid foam. This series can be identified by Panton's signature on the base.  Manufacturer: 1983-1990 Horn on behalf of the WK Group; since 1990 Vitra; since 1999 this model has been marketed under the name Panton Chair Classic.

1999-to present day// Fourth series model made of colored polypropylene.  Manufacturer: Vitra

2005-to present day// Panton Junior made of colored polypropylene (a smaller version of the Panton Chair made to scale for children from the age of three).   Manufacturer: Vitra

photo © Ari Markopoulos
Image Courtesy of Vitra

photo © Ari Markopoulos
Image Courtesy of Vitra

Image Courtesy of Vitra

sources:

Vitra, deco-design

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Panton Verner

About Verner Panton

13 February 1926 – 5 September 1998 // is considered one of Denmark's most influential 20th century furniture and interior designers.  During Verner Panton's  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 trained as an architectural engineer in Odense; next, he studied architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen.  During the first two years of his career, 1950-1952, he worked at the architectural practice of Arne Jacobsen, another Danish architect and furniture designer.  Panton turned out to be an "enfant terrible" and he started his own design and architectural office.  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-molded plastic chair. The Stacking chair or S chair, which would become his most famous and mass-produced design.
 
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Verner Panton experimented with designing entire environments: radical and psychedelic interiors that were an ensemble of his curved furniture, wall upholstering, textiles and lighting.  He is best known for the design of a German boats interior, now a famous museum.  He is also known for a hotel in Europe that utilized circular patterns and cylindrical furniture.  Additionally, Panton is well-known for his innovative design work for Der Spiegel, a well-known German publication in Hamburg.

[official website]

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