« Panton Chair 50th Anniversary
It can no longer be ascertained precisely when the idea started to take shape in the mind of Verner Panton for the design that became directly associated with his name. According to his own rather vague accounts and the few undated sketches that are preserved, it must have been around 1959/60 when he first began to work more intently on the idea of a cantilevered plastic chair made in one piece – hardly anticipating that it would take almost a decade to realize this idea. When the Panton Chair – the first product developed independently by Vitra – finally arrived on the market in 1967, it had an unusually long and difficult development process behind it, a process that was only temporarily completed upon its commercial introduction. Within the next few years, the chair underwent several changes in material and manufacturing technology, while also evolving into a symbol of its era and an icon of furniture design.
It all began in the 1960s, when Verner Panton came to Vitra to show Willi and Rolf Fehlbaum a deep-drawn prototype of a chair made out of plastic. They were fascinated by the idea and wanted to pursue serial production of the chair. It finally reached the manufacturing stage in 1967. The first models were made out of fibreglass-reinforced polyester, followed by a version in rigid polyurethane foam (Baydur) and another in injection-moulded Luran S (ASA). It became apparent with time that the latter material was susceptible to fatigue and breakage. For this reason, Vitra suspended production of the chair in the late 1970s.
Through the initiative of Verner Panton, however, the complex – but reliable – casting method using rigid polyurethane foam was resumed in the 1980s and has been continued to the present day. This version for design connoisseurs is marketed under the name Panton Chair Classic.
Yet in the meantime, so much progress has been made in plastics technology that the Panton Chair can once again be manufactured by injection moulding – now in the material of polypropylene, which is fully recyclable. The renewed alternative of injection moulding technology makes it possible to also offer the chair in an inexpensive version, thereby making this classic available to a wide public.
Even after Panton’s death in 1998, work on this classic continued. With the approval of Marianne Panton, Vitra launched the Panton Junior in 2006, a children’s version of the chair based on old original plans. The Panton Chair has always been a favourite of children. They like its bright colours, the pleasant smoothness of its curves and the fact that you can not only climb on it, but also use it to make great caves and hiding places. Identical to the full-size model with regard to material and shape, the Panton Junior is approximately 25 percent smaller. This makes it a happy place to sit for children in preschool and primary grades. »
(Source: Nicolas Marier)