The ‘Pantonic Chair Design’Evolved from a Modern Design Classic
By the late Verner Panton of Denmark
Almost every site that promotes this unusual little chair says the same thing:
“You will smile when you see it and smile even more when you sit on it. HÅG Pantonic reacts immediately to every kind of movement and will encourage you to change your sitting position. Just what the body likes!”
But there is so much more to this quirky furniture item than is revealed by this statement.
Modern Design Classic is a Product of the Swinging Sixties
This colorful and playful chair design is the offspring of an older chair design which first emerged in the swinging 60’s. The original Panton Chair was definitely a product that reflected this fun loving era. The 1960’s heralded change in attitudes to fashions in: art clothing, interior design, and pretty much everything to do with individual creativity and expression of ideas. The world was changing rapidly and designers were keen to keep pace with rapidly changing attitudes and lifestyles.
One of the leading designers at the time was Verner Panton, a Danish architect who started his career during the ‘Beat’ years of the mid-1950s. Panton was quite a character and travelled around in a distinctive old Volkswagon van that he had converted into a mobile design studio.
At the time the whole of Scandinavia was famous for its “organic modernist designs”, and Denmark was central to this contemporary design scene. However, Verner Panton’s style was very different from “…the soft, naturalistic forms and materials which were the hallmarks of Danish modernism”. He had to work hard to get his pioneering ideas accepted even in this open minded era.
Eventually, Verner Panton’s furniture concepts started to break into the market and after a series of successes with distinctive chair designs, he had made his name as a “visionary designer”. Panton found himself free from financial constraints and able to experiment. He developed a string of innovative new furniture ideas including the Panton Chair in 1967. This was the first ever cantilevered chair fashioned entirely from a single piece of plastic. The Panton chair soon became the chair design of the era. It was described as “Sleek, sexy and a technical first…” Much in demand, one shiny red Panton Chair was featured in Nova magazine’s famous 1970 shoot “How to undress in front of your husband“. This typically enthusiastic response illustrates how the original Panton Chair became recognized as a modern design classic.
The Newly Evolved Pantonic Chair Design
Although the original Panton Chair is still a furniture form that sits comfortably within today’s contemporary design settings, the most recent version has been stylistically modified. It is more complex in shape with the introduction of an asymmetric combination of inter-related curves. However, the basic principle of a cantilevered design that, responds to each sitter’s movements and posture, remains the same.
In his original experiments Verner Panton was particularly fascinated with shape and bright color. Additionally he was most enthusiastic about the design potential of plastic, which was a relatively new material in the 1960’s. One of Panton’s main goals was to create a comfortable, multi-purpose plastic chair that could be molded as a single unit. The basic design principle behind the new version of the Pantonic Chair remains unchanged.
In the 1960’s the original one-piece plastic chair was highly acclaimed and won numerous awards. Still available today, the Classic Panton Chair has a highly lacquered finish in black, white or red. The Pantonic Chair version has the same sleek and glossy appearance but the additional curves and undulations change the fundamental character of the piece. The later version appears livelier and more amusing. It seems to squat on its haunches like a small creature that can’t wait to please! The Pantonic Chair is born out of a modern design classic but has a distinctive personality all of its own.