Knoll completes the Platner Collection

Knoll completes the Platner Collection


Two new additions to the classic Platner collection are being introduced by KnollStudio at Milan’s Salone 2012.

Originally designed in 1966 by Warren Platner, the “highly anticipated” Easy Chair and Ottoman are made of finely-finished steel rods (available in nickel or bronze) teamed with a variety of upholstery.

The rods are bent by hand on a jig designed by Platner himself, whose aim with this collection was to invoke a “decorative, graceful kind of design”; a grace achieved with the most modern of materials and methods; the chair alone has 1400 welds.

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About Warren Platner

Architect and designer Warren Platner (1919-2006) was born in Baltimore and graduated from the Cornell University School of Architecture in 1941.

He got his professional start working in some of the most prominent and interesting architecture practices in the country.

Between 1945 and 1950 he worked for Raymond Loewy and I.M. Pei.

He was a part of Eero Saarinen’s office from 1960-65, participating in the designs for the Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C., the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center and several dormitories at Yale University.

It was after this extensive exposure to many innovative modern designers of the period, and having gathered a great deal of experience, that Platner opened his own office, Platner Associates, in Connecticut in 1967. He quickly became a significant design studio, creating furniture, lighting and textiles, as well as residential and commercial interiors

Of the furniture and interior designers who began to make their talents visible in the 1960s, Warren Platner was among the less flamboyant. Nevertheless, he earned for himself an international reputation for elegant understatement and the steel wire furniture he designed for Knoll has become an icon of ’60s modernism.

In the 1960s, working with the aid of a grant from the Graham Foundation and with the Knoll production team, Platner developed what is known as the Knoll “Platner Collection,” his major furniture contribution to the mid-century landscape.

Modernism became more expressive during the 1960s, reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural values. In Platner’s words, “I felt there was room for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful design that appeared in a period style like Louis XV.” To pursue that concept, he focused on the design possibilities of steel wire and ultimately arrived at a collection of chairs, ottomans and tables that rest on a sculptural base of nickel-plated steel rods.

Introduced by Knoll in 1966, the Platner collection has been in continuous production ever since


For this series of chairs, ottomans and tables, Platner designed both the structure and the production method. Production was complicated because the sculptural bases were made of hundreds of rods and for some chairs required more than 1,000 welds. An intricate cylindrical mesh steel base, creating a unique architectural play between the interior and exterior space, supported the upholstered seat.

Compared, by the Knoll catalogue, to a sheaf of wheat, their shiny nickel finish alluded more to the technological innovations used to create their elegant, distinctly modern appearance.

In creating these pieces he wrote that, “as a designer, I felt there was room for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful kind of design that appeared in period style like Louis XV.” He also outlined the definition of a “classic” as being, “something that every time you look at it, you accept it as it is and you see no way of improving it,” a quality that has often been applied to this series of furniture.

Platner designed other office furniture and was also involved in a number of large architecture and interior design commissions in which he was often responsible for details down to the dishes and textiles, in addition to the furniture and textiles.


Working in the office of architect Kevin Roche, Platner won acclaim for the interior design of the Ford Foundation headquarters (1967), using a muted color scheme to create warmth within the soaring steel, granite and glass building

Warren Platner designed the American Restaurant in Kansas City in 1974 as part of a complex of modern buildings commissioned by the Hall family of Hallmark Cards. He described the bentwood, brass and lipstick-red interior as “like a huge lace Valentine.” Platner’s architectural background enabled him to experiment in a number of design areas. In retrospect much of Platner’s work seems perverse. Because he didn’t stick to the browns and blacks and tasteful grids of his employers and peers, this heir of Saarinen wasn’t easy to pigeonhole and was duly accused of modernist apostasy.

But his material and aesthetic wanderlust — those brass-plated rods, those crystal chunks, even the bentwood he turned into a ceiling decoration for the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri (1974) — were all part of his search for an appropriate palette for each client

Platner’s own wire series chairs for Knoll were used in the reception rooms at Windows on the World, the restaurant ­located on the top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center and completed in 1976. He specified many reflective surfaces, including custom brass lamps and a gold-leaf wall covered in gold globes. In a deft stroke, he managed to create intimate alcoves and terraces for every table while still giving each a generous view.

Platner’s interior design for the glamorous Windows on the World Restaurant (1976) captured the public’s notice perhaps more than any other project. Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic of The New York Times, described the lush interior, with its subdued pastels, fabric-covered walls and brass railings, as an example of “sensuous modernism.”

Platner also designed the interiors for Water Tower Place (1976), a vertical shopping mall in Chicago and, in 1986, directed interior renovation of the Pan Am Building lobby for its new owner, MetLife.

The concept is similar to a chateau in the Loire Valley,” Platner said of his own house in Guilford, Connecticut.

One of Platner’s last projects was a pair of English cross-channel ferries, the Fantasia and the Fiesta, for which he designed yellow Union Jack carpeting and lavender chairs

His largest project in the UK is Sea Containers House in Blackfriars, London, a Postmodern icon, which is being converted into a hotel by Tom Dixon

Warren Platner received the Rome Prize in architecture in 1955 and in 1985 was inducted into Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame

Still active in his firm, Platner Associates, he died in 2006 at the age of 86


With his experience in the firm of Eero Saarinen and Associates, it is not surprising that the mantel for the second generation of pedestal and wire furniture fell on the creative shoulders of Warren Platner.

Reflecting a dramatic shift in cultural values, modernism became more expressive in the 1960s. Platner felt there was an opportunity to merge the competing aesthetics of the time.


“I began to think about what I thought furniture, specifically a chair, really might be, starting with the philosophy that it isn’t going to be aggressively technological, or aggressively handicraft…I, as a designer, felt there was room for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful kind of design that appeared in period style like Louis XV, but it could have a more rational base instead of being applied decoration…

I thought why separate support from the object. Just make it all one thing. Starts at the floor and comes up and envelops me, supports me…What I wanted to achieve was a chair that, number one, was complementary to the person sitting in it, or to the person in the space between the wall and the chair — what the chair did for the person in respect to the scale of the person and the space.”

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