Although Verner Panton's first big break was furniture – the Panton Chair and a collection of 'seating landscapes' including Living Tower and Welle – he began, as Anniina Koivu writes for Vitra magazine, by designing a collapsible house and turning a VW minibus into a mobile design studio setting off to visit Europe’s leading furniture manufacturers – with his Panton Chair prototype in tow. In his early years, Danish designer Verner Panton was involved in many weird and wonderful things. He designed a collapsible house, which could be folded together and put on a car roof. He designed candlesticks and lamps, he made tables and stools. He also designed a shirt and patented its pressing – a project that became his first financial success. The fees from the shirt were enough to buy half of a Volkswagen minibus. The other half belonged to a friend, with whom Panton set off across Europe. They stayed by turns at hotels and in the minibus, so that both of them could have a wash. On their way, they visited several furniture factories in order to get design jobs, but without much luck. Nevertheless, several small projects did earn him a small profit, and eventually Verner Panton bought his friend’s half of the minibus and headed back south. This time, he went alone. The bus had been fitted with a place to sleep and a drawing board, and again, Panton visited a large number of furniture factories en route. He did not get many jobs, but he did make a number of contacts, many of which were later to prove very valuable. One of these was the phone number of Willi Fehlbaum, founder of Vitra and only manufacturer daring enough to test new grounds by developing the Panton Chair, history’s first ever single-piece cantilever chair in plastic.

The accompanying film made by Verpan, the Danish manufacturer producing collections of lighting, furniture and rugs from the Verner Panton Foundation archives (like the Cloverleaf Sofa, Pantop PendantSystem 1-2-3 Dining Chair and Mirror Throw), demonstrates the connectivity of Welle (wave) – the undulating 3D landscape designed by Panton for the 'Visiona 2: Fantasy Landscape' exhibition at the Cologne Fair in 1970. The installation consisted of vibrant colours and organic forms that are central to Panton's work and the show is regarded as one of the major spatial designs of the 20th century.

The Welle collection is part of the Apartment Series exhibition on show at Space Furniture until March 2015.

 

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