Born in 1923, designer Poul M. Volther belonged to a generation of Danish creatives rooted in Scandinavian functionalism. Volther’s work is characterized by a mastery of form, as evidenced by his iconic EJ5 Corona Chair for Erik Jørgensen (1961/64). Highly collectible today, this singular piece has left an indelible mark on design history.
Volther originally trained as a cabinetmaker before studying at the Royal Danish Academy School of Arts & Crafts in Copenhagen. Over the years, Volther also taught at the Royal Danish Academy School of Design, influencing hundreds of young designers along the way.
In 1949, legendary architect-designer Hans Wegner (1914-2007) introduced Volther to the FBD, a Danish national cooperative association for producers of consumer goods. There, Volther worked under another Danish design great, Børge Mogensen (1914-1972), and went on to become FDB’s design director when Mogensen left in 1959. During his tenure at FDB, Volther created a range of chairs and sofas that can still be found in homes across Denmark.
Through the course of the postwar years, Volther’s design work exhibited an aversion to short-lived trends in favor of cool, functionalist aesthetics driven by Bauhaus-influenced, rationalist design thinking. He was always eager to try new approaches and experiment with new materials. The Pyramid Chair (1953) was Volther’s first foray into foam and featured a series of elliptical cushions separated by spaces. Though this design never found success, it was inspired by time-lapse photographs of solar eclipses and, in turn, inspired the design of the famous Corona Chair. The “skeleton” that supports the oval cushions of these chairs was intended to cradle the user’s spine and provide ample comfort. The unique visual profile that resulted likely contributed to the designs’ poor reception among Danes who, at the time, were not in favor of overly bold designs.
In 1962, Volther found a partner in the then-new furniture manufacturer Erik Jørgensen. The company agreed to produce the Corona Chair with a chrome-plated steel frame. Despite the investment, this chair would not find a significant audience until 1997, when Erik Jørgensen re-launched it at the Cologne Furniture Fair in Germany, followed by the Scandinavian Furniture Fair in Denmark. One year after Volther’s death in 2001, the chair was used at the EU Summit in Copenhagen.
Volther’s designs have been produced by many design companies, such as Munch Furniture and Frem Røjle. However, his Corona Chair is considered his most memorable design contribution. It’s been featured in countless movies, fashion shoots, and music videos.