Verner Panton was an inspirational and colourful personality. A unique person with a special sense of colours, shapes, light function and room.
He established his own design office in 1955 and is credited with the design of the very first single-form injection-moulded plastic chair – the Stacking chair designed in 1960. The “S” chair was the first, one-piece, mass produced, plastic chair. Verner Panton designed a similar, moulded, laminated wood chair with an unbroken S-curve in 1960. The zigzag form inspired several of Panton’s designs. He also initially worked in Arne Jacobsen’s architectural practice.
After years of searching for a suitable manufacturer for the stacking “S” chair, Vitra, which was manufacturing under license for Herman Miller, developed a prototype made from fibreglass-reinforced polyester, but a desire to make the chair stackable delayed production because the thickness of the material had to be reduced without sacrificing stability.
In 1968, an “S” chair of high resilience polyurethane foam was made jointly by Vitra and Bayer Leverkusen and included in the Herman Miller Collection.
In 1970, Vitra replaced the costly production technology with thermo set injection moulding that used a dyed granulate Luran-s made by BASF. The edge profiles had to be strengthened by reinforcing ribs under the seat. The material could not stand up to dynamic stress, and Vitra discontinued production in 1979.
Like Arne Jacobsen, for whom Verner Panton worked before establishing his own practice in Switzerland, Verner Panton was one of a few Scandinavian designers that broke with the tradition of producing hand-crafted, wood furniture. Panton made a conscious effort to remove himself from the preconceived notions of how a chair should be designed. When conceptualizing a new design, Panton concerned himself with the potential of new materials and how they could be made into new forms.
He was fascinated by the possibilities made available by new plastics that did not limit the designer and allowed for inexpensive products. Panton designed the “Cone” chair in 1958, “Pantonova” seating in 1966, and the “Visiona” exhibits for Basche in 1968 and 1970. He created interior environments with furniture forms and luminous colour.