When a designer turns the chair world upside down.
The Cone Chair
The story of a Vitra original
What had happened? Danish architect and designer Verner Panton had been commissioned by his father, the manager of the restaurant Kom Igen (which means ‘Come again’ in Danish), to refurbish all of the rooms and design an extension. Panton was given free rein and designed the entire interior, including textiles, carpets, lighting, furniture, uniforms for the staff and the menus. Using geometrical shapes and limiting the colour scheme to only five different shades of red, Panton developed a revolutionary setting. News of the opening of Kom Igen spread like wildfire, first locally, then throughout the whole of Denmark, and the restaurant was discussed at length in the media. This culminated in the rush mentioned in the introduction.
In 1959, the Danish sales fair Købestaevnet in Fredericia invited Verner Panton to design the exhibition. He elaborated on his concept as follows, ‘Experience shows that this fair attracts incredible crowds of people and they never get to see anything other than each other’s backs and shoulders. So, let’s place everything on the ceiling.’ Not just the Cone Chairs but many other items of furniture were attached to the ceiling so that visitors could get a better view. The press declared Panton raving mad, and many fellow architects and designers expressed their incomprehension of his alternative thinking.
The Cone Chair’s innovative aesthetic modified the approach to seating in the latter part of the 1950s, and it was the first creation in the legendary design language for which Panton is renowned today. Vitra and Verner Panton teamed up to develop the Panton Chair shortly thereafter. In 1963, the designer and his wife Marianne moved to Basel, in close vicinity to the Swiss company’s head office. A lasting and continuing friendship with the owners of Vitra, the Fehlbaums, developed over the years. Marianne Panton still lives in Basel today. The careful management and further development of the Danish designer’s work is one of the tasks that Vitra has inherited from this relationship. And because Plus-linje no longer exists, the Cone Chair, the Cone Stool and the Heart Cone Chair have been manufactured by Vitra since 2004.
Publication date: 5.4.2019
Images: Marc Eggimann, © Verner Panton Design AG
Vitra originals and their stories in the Vitra Magazine
Invest in an original, for it will always retain its worth. An imitation will never be anything but a copy, a stolen idea. Appreciate the differences – not just the quality and more obvious variances but also the sensory and emotional appeal of the authentic product. An original is a lifelong companion and may well outlive you to be gratefully received by the next generation. But that’s a story for the future.