Warren Platner knew he wanted to be an architect from the beginning. He studied architecture at Cornell, graduated in 1941, and commenced his long career of design.
Working for Others
Platner started off working for several well-known architects, including Raymond Loewy and I.M. Pei from 1945–1950, and Eero Saarinen from 1960–1965. The experience provided him with a wide range of architectural and design skills, and helped him develop his work ethic. “From Eero Saarinen I learned that hard work is very worthwhile,” he said in 1981. Finally in 1965, after 20 years of working for others, Platner opened his own firm.
Working for Himself
One of his first solo projects became his most lasting legacy. Platner developed a furniture collection for Knoll known as the Platner Collection, which came out in 1966 and has become an iconic symbol of the era. He not only designed the pieces, but detailed the production techniques, which required over 1,000 welds and cylindrical steel rods for each piece to make the chair or table look like a shiny sheaf of wheat.
As he developed his firm, Platner became known for his versatility; not only did he develop furniture, but also buildings, interior design, lighting and even window coverings. Some of his more famous buildings and interiors include the Georg Jensen Design Center and offices in the Ford Foundation headquarters in New York and the Windows of the World restaurant in the World Trade Center.
Platner prided himself on not having any one specialty, but being able to do it all. “Architecture is a very thorough [education], and encompasses virtually every aspect of the plastic arts, and also encompasses aspects of engineering and many other disciplines,” he said. “Therefore architects can do almost any design task if they wish to do so, and if they care enough about what they’re doing.”
Stay tuned for more designer profiles in our upcoming special, The Design Issue, due out December 12.