The ground-breaking chairs of Verner Panton

September 5, 2023

The ground-breaking chairs of Verner Panton

Get to know Verner Panton, the 20th-century visionary who forever changed our ideas about furniture and design. This article takes you behind the scenes of his most famous creation, the Panton Chair, revealing the struggles and successes that turned it into an iconic piece. From its inception to its lasting impact on modern design, you'll gain a comprehensive understanding of this groundbreaking chair.

As one of the most influential and remarkable designers of the 20th century, Verner Panton (1926-1998) created design objects, interior architecture and visual art that changed people’s minds and inspired coming generation designers. Paton was a master of the fluid, futuristic style of the 1960s design which introduced the pop aesthetic to furniture and interiors. Panton has won numerous awards and been exhibited in museums all around the world. His ideologies and design concepts are apparent and have great influence even on the design of today.

The chair of Verner Panton that receives most attention is the so called Panton Chair. After studying previous plastic shell chairs design by a.o. Ray and Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen in the 1950s Panton decided to develop his own alternative, a monolithic chair without legs. “I want to design furniture that grows up out of the floor- to turn the chair into something organic and never with four legs” Panton declared. Inspired by Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig-Zag wooden chair from 1934 Panton started to develop his idea in the late 1950s. But to find a manufacturer who could help realize Panton’s idea of a monolithic stackable plastic chair, produced in one shot, in one material only, without assembly or hand-labour was not easy, to say the least.

Almost all design that breaks barriers and shows the way to something new initially meets strong resistance. In a speech to interior architects at the fair ground Bella Center in Copenhagen in 1979 Panton stated: “I insist that if you, as a creative person, have no opponents- then something is wrong!” 

In 1963 Panton met the Swiss entrepreneur Willie Fehlbaum, who was the European licensee of the Herman Miller collection and founder of the Vitra Company. Fehlbaum was hooked on the idea and after years of experiments and developments the Panton Chair was launched on the market in 1967. It has since been manufactured in hundreds of thousands and been loved by customers all over the world. In our opinion the Panton Chair is both a classic furniture object as well as an important icon of international design.     

In 1973, six years after the Panton Chair was launched Verner Panton released the 1-2-3 series, designed to the Danish company Fritz Hansen. The series originally consisted of 20 different models with variations in seat height, arm rests and feet. The design community was very enthusiastic about the chairs at the time, and one critic wrote- ”Another mile-stone in future furniture design...”

Verner Panton continued to develop his ideas of chairs without legs during three decades. In 1992, six years before Panton passed away the Norwegian company HÅG launched his Pantonic Chair, an artistic successor of the Panton Chair made of CNC-milled laminated wood.   

Designer of the month
Hans J. Wegner

Danish furniture designer Hans J. Wegner created over 500 pieces of furniture and was instrumental in the spread of Scandinavian design as an international concept. the Peacock Chair and the Ox Chair are two of Wegner’s most well-known pieces.

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