In the context of the Cologne furniture fair in 1970 Bayer in cooperation with the Danish designer Verner Panton presented Visiona II, an almost breathtaking interior staging wallowing in colors and forms. On the occasion of the exhibition’s 40th anniversary we took another look at this much discussed concept.
“Barbarella” in the cinema and the Moon landing on TV: Once upon a time the future was so near that one could have almost nestled down in it. Interior landscape was the magic term that promised a sensual way of life freed from all conventions. And polyurethan, polyester, polypropylene etc. were the all-rounders from the chemical retort that opened up a whole new design perspective together with technological advancement, economical boom and social change: motley colors and buxom curves, desire beats reason.
It would need countless pages to even only sum up in note form what happened if not went haywire in the decade of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Masculin, féminin” between May 1968 in France and the Moon landing, between Carnaby Street and Woodstock. With overwhelming creative energy the culture of everyday life has been turned into the alternative and vanguard key medium. Thus, thanks to the overwhelming euphoria directed towards technology a small portion of design utopia found its way into everyman’s home: in the form of Sputnik inspired globated radios, alarm-clocks, lamps; or in the form of seats and settees that with their seat height drew near to the collegiate communal bunks and undercut the bourgeois way of sitting by casual slouching.
This era of design reached its spectacular climax in Bayer’s Visiona exhibitions, which caused a furor at the end of the Sixties and the beginning of the Seventies. Originally, the chemical giant had only chartered the Rhine boat “Loreley” to promote its synthetic fiber Dralon in a home textile exhibition right next to the Cologne furniture fair. However, after the Dane Verner Panton (1926 – 1998) had taken over the exhibition design in 1968 the perspective changed overnight – with a dedication to futuristic interior staging that absolutely lived up to the name Visiona.
Especially Visiona II, staged by Panton in 1970, should become the most beguiling symbol for these years to this day. One of the photographs constantly reproduced shows a kind of interior cave immersed in luscious hues of blue and red full of soft bulges and flickering juts coming out of the floor, the walls and the ceiling so that one hardly knows if, where and how one may settle down in this subterranean cave or intergalactic time tunnel. A pot hallucination mutated into a sofa system?
As timely as this psychedelic association may be: Of late, Marianne Panton, the designer’s widow being strongly bonded to her late husband’s work, has decidedly not only brushed this suspicion aside but also the interpretation of the interior cave symbolizing an uterus. “Rubbish,” she says, “Verner simply wanted to stimulate all our senses.” That’s why every room had “its own sound and color atmosphere, its own smell” Marianne Panton adds.
Interior design creating a space for holistic living. Unfortunately, nothing of it remained. When at the beginning of the year 2000 the Vitra Design Museum dedicated a comprehensive retrospective to the designer (who for and with Vitra had developed the chair icon of the decade: the back leg free, elegantly swinging Panton chair) it could only exhibit a reproduction of the legendary cave – not to mention the other rooms. But photo and film documents survived – two brief video sequences can, for instance, be found online at YouTube. Here, you can follow the camera through a few rooms. Mostly they are, typically for Panton, immersed in a chromatic light shower, and always invite to
relax in a bar-like atmosphere.
Panton’s predecessor at Visiona, technology hipped Joe Columbo, had aimed for the then popular overcoming of the typical architectonic footprints by presenting autonomic and mobile functional containers for living, cooking, sleeping and sanitation. Home, thus, being a futuristic, technically upgraded living machine. Quite different things stood with the design entertainer from the cool north. For Panton, living had no more than one dimension: to relax, to feel good in an alternative to the formally furnished living room. Kitchen and bath had been no issue for him arguing that functions like these would be arranged for collectively in the future – by whomever and however.
In the Bayer video, in which a pretty young couple lingers through the tunnel and through more restrainedly modeled and furnished areas in green and purple mirror reflections, the young woman asks: “Wouldn’t a disco be a better place for something like this?” The man who accompanies her gently counters: “But you feel good, don’t you?” just to go on enumerating one banality after the other in order to explain all that is great at this “real suggestion for new living”. Above all: the bielastic Bayer fiber Dralon makes it possible. It couldn’t be squarer.
Panton wouldn’t have wanted a promotion like this. From the SPIEGEL publishing house to his own flat in Basel he realized his vision with as much imagination as pragmatism. If his designs in his prime disciplines chairs and lamps are not yet re-edited they are among the idolized favorites on the design market. Maybe today the future also seems to be less auspicious than threatening because we are so skeptical with regard to innovations.
26. April 2010
Categories: architecture, Design concepts, General, visions
Tags: Bayer, Cologne, colors, creativity, design, designer, forms, futuristic, imm cologne, interior design, Joe Colombo, Panton chair, relaxation, Verner Panton, Visiona II