Warren Platner was an American architect, furniture and interior designer. Platner produced a furniture collection that has proved to be a continuing icon of 1960s Modernism. He is also famed with designing several prominent interiors in New York City, including headquarters offices for the Ford Foundation building and the original Windows on the World restaurant, atop the World Trade Center.
Born in Baltimore in 1919, Platner studied architecture at Cornell University and, following graduation in 1941, worked in the offices of legendary designers Eero Saarinen and I.M. Pei. He opened his own New Haven office in 1967, which quickly became a significant design studio, creating furniture, lighting and textiles, as well as residential and commercial interiors.
Platner was a part of Eero Saarinen's office from 1960 to 1965, participating in the designs for the Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., the Repertory Theatre at Lincoln Center and several dormitories at Yale University.
Working in the firms of Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche in the early and mid-1960s, Platner unveiled his seminal collection of chairs, ottomans and tables in 1966. Produced by Knoll International, with the aid of a grant from the Graham Foundation, each piece rested on a sculptural base of nickel-plated steel rods resembling a "shiny sheaf of wheat", according to the Knoll catalogue.
Production was complicated. 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.
The collection has been in continuous production since its introduction, highlighting the ever-growing interest by collectors of mid-century modern design.
Platner 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".
Platner's architectural background enabled him to experiment in a number of design areas. 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. Also notable, was his design of the Georg Jensen Design Center (1968), a showroom for high-end Scandinavian furniture and lighting. 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. Still active in his firm, Platner Associates, he died in 2006 at the age of 86.
Warren Platner received the Rome Prize in architecture in 1955 and in 1985 was inducted into Interior Design magazine's Hall of Fame.