Born 1923, Denmark
Practised in Denmark
Studied Furniture Design at the Arts and Crafts School in Copenhagen
Poul Volther was born in Denmark in 1923 and would grow up to embody a generation of architects with solid roots in the very best of craft. He originally trained as a cabinetmaker, but later attended the Royal Danish Academy School of Arts and Crafts School in Copenhagen where he studied furniture design. A quiet man, Volther was uncompromising on his design principles yet refreshingly unafraid to try new things.
Volther embraced Scandinavian functionalism – his designs were first and foremost to be useful. He held firm to his origins and embraced the modernist motto, “organic design delves from the form that follows function”.
After graduating in 1949, Volther established his own design and architecture firm. That same year, he was introduced to a Danish cooperative for consumer goods producers. He later took over as design director of this cooperative in 1959. During his tenure, Volther created a range of chairs and sofas that can still be found in homes across Denmark and he was described as a man who designed “stylistic, functional furniture where the aesthetic was often paramount”.
Poul Volther left an indelible impact on both a Danish and international stage, not just through his designs but also by inspiring hundreds of students as a teacher at his alma mater. He influenced many upcoming designers with his sensibility and unwavering standards for quality and practicality.
Averse to fleeting trends, Volther saw objects as defined by their nature. He thought for an object to serve its purpose, it must fulfil its function in the most practical way, so he urged his students to first study the nature of the pieces they were looking to create.
Using this principle as his base, Volther experimented with new materials and was inspired to try new approaches. So much so, that some of his unique designs originally received a poor reception from the Danes who at the time, were not in favour of overtly bold designs.
His first attempt at working with foam resulted in the Pyramid Chair. Created in 1953, it was inspired by time-lapse photos of solar eclipses. The Pyramid Chair was not a commercial success, but it did inspire Volther’s most famous design in 1961: The Corona Chair.
Sticking to his principle focus of functionalism, the “skeleton” that supports the oval cushions of both chairs was intended to cradle the user’s spine and provide ample comfort.
The Corona chair would not find its audience until 1997 when it was re-launched at the Cologne Furniture Fair in Germany and the Scandinavian Furniture Fair in Denmark. One year after Volther’s death in 2001, the chair was used at the EU Summit in Copenhagen.
The chair has “a sculptural gravity that is not easily forgotten” and its success comes from its fusion of technical cool and warm, and its inviting form that refers directly to the human anatomy with its spine and ribs.
The Corona is iconic, and it has been featured in countless movies, fashion shoots, and music videos. Yet Volther’s other designs are also noteworthy, particularly when it comes to the flexibility of his designs.
He placed emphasis on maximizing space and many of his designs had more than one purpose – for example, his Model C35/J62 acts as both dining table and desk and a small teak cabinet he designed features legs in the shape of a mathematical compass that resembles stilts, adding visual interest while also providing enough height to make the cabinet easily accessible.
Poul Volther was an accomplished and prolific furniture designer whose works go well beyond the Corona chair. With his unerring sense of detail, love for materials and great craftsmanship, Volther is recognized today as one of the great Danish mid-century designers.
- J110 Lounge Chair
- J111 Dining Chair
- 1953- Pyramid Chair
- 1961- Corona Chair
- Model C35/J62 Dining Table/ Desk
- 981 “Diva” Daybed
- Oak J60 Dining Chair
- “Mama Bear” Upholstered Armchair