Warren Platner (1919 - 2006) was born on June 18, 1919 in Baltimore, USA. He studied at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY where he acquired a degree in architecture. After graduating in 1941, Platner worked for I.M. Pei and Raymond Loewy, the legendary designers from 1945 – 1950. From 1960 – 1965, he was part of the work force in Eero Saarinen's establishment. Here he lent a hand in designing the international airport in Washington D. C., the Dulles International Airport.
He also played a part in the design of several dormitories at Yale University and also the conception for the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center, New York city.
Platner earned worldwide renown for himself through the chairs and tables that he designed for Knoll, where he was working with the help of a grant from the Graham Foundation, using only steel wire, which was released in 1966. His creations have become an icon of the modernism prevalent in the'60s. Platner personally formulated the production techniques for the complicated design of these chairs as they involved over a thousand welds for each piece and each chair consisted of well over a hundred steel cylindrical rods. Each chair was placed on an intricate cylindrical base that exuded an aura of elegance and technological innovation. This unique architectural design served as the base of the chair and was bedecked by the upholstered seat. Platner defined this creation of his as “classic”.
According to Platner, “classic” was something you were instantly attracted to and accept that there is no chance of improving the design.
The Knoll catalogue compared these chairs to a sheaf of wheat due to the shiny Nickel finish it emanated. These chairs are still in production, as their demand has not waned since their inception.
During the 1960s, Platner was also involved in the Ford Foundation whose headquarters in Manhattan he helped design. The design was an exemplary example of ‘60s modernism prevalent in the country. Primarily designed by Kevin Roche, the building and the surrounding compound with glass, granite and steel exuded optimism and confidence, the benchmarks of the Great Society.
At Kevin Roche’s firm, as the man in charge of Interior Design, Platner conceived flexible, modular and efficient workspaces. His design minimized effort and made the office look rich yet subtle and elegant. His desks had compartments for telephones, filing cabinets and other equipment that might be needed in a workspace.
Platner was awarded with The Rome Prize in architecture in 1955, which is awarded to 15 emerging artists by virtue of a national level competition organized by The American Academy in Rome.
Warren Platner was an artist who specialized in the Mid-Century modern architectural, interior and product design form. The form describes pre- and post- Second World War developments in modern design, architecture, and urban development. The form is much more organic and less formal.
While still working on the Ford Foundation Building, Warren Platner established his own company, Warren Platner Associates in New Haven, Connecticut in the year 1967.
Having set up Warren Platner Associates in 1967, Warren Platner started his solo career. Goerg Jensen was one of his first clients. Platner designed the Georg Jensen Design Center showroom in New York in 1968 from where Jensen sold lighting and Scandinavian furniture.
Warren Platner transformed steel wire into a sculptural furniture collection, thus creating a design icon of the modern era.
Platner was able to experiment with a variety of designs for his furniture thanks to his architectural background. Also he was of the firm opinion that there was always room to make designs of “the kind of decorative, graceful design that appeared in a period style like Louis XV.”
Among his best-known creations is the Windows on the World, which was a restaurant, and adjoining bar that operated between late 1972 and September 11, 2001 in New York City on top floors (106 and 107) of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It gave patrons a view of the Manhattan skyline. The interior was designed to appear as an ocean liner by Planter. Each table was so placed that all patrons had an elaborate view and intimate seating. The New York Times described the restaurant's lush interior, with its soft pastels, fabric-covered walls and what seemed like miles of brass railings, as an example of "sensuous modernism."
Warren Platner was best known for his elegance and steel wire designs. He was a furniture designer par excellence.
Platner’s designs were not just limited to office furniture. He was part of the design process in a large number of interior design and architectural commissions. Additionally, he was responsible for the design of the lighting and even the textiles used in the interiors.
Another notable work by Platner was the design of the interiors for a vertical shopping mall, the Water Tower Place, in Chicago, which opened in 1976. It had a stunning eight level atrium with over a 100 stores, restaurants, distinctive specialty shops and boutiques. The project received a J.C. Nichols Prize from the Urban Land Institute in 1986. After MetLife bought the Pan Am Building in 1986, Platner was assigned to direct the interior renovation of the lobby by MetLife, which was the largest commercial office building at that time.
Platner has also created architectural ornaments, floor coverings, window coverings, lighting fixtures and furniture for many of his clients.
Platner co-authored the illustrated book “Ten by Warren Platner” which was published by McGraw-Hill in 1975.
In 1985 Warren Platner was inducted into Interior Design magazine's Hall of Fame.
Platner lived in Guilford, Connecticut with his wife, Joan Payne Platner. His progeny include daughters Jody Platner, Sharon Lincoln, Madeleine Howenstine and son, Bronson.
Platner was working on various projects, including a new shopping mall in Greece, till he fell ill.
Platner died on 17th April 2006 at the age of 86. The cause for his demise was reported to be complications of spinal meningitis. He is survived by his immediate family and eleven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.