Panton Chair, Sharjah English School, Vitra

Redesigning a classic

Product design students at Sharjah English School put their own spin on Vitra’s Panton Chair and come out with flying colours

UAE: The iconic Panton chair by Vitra was restyled by students of Sharjah English School (SES). Held in the region for the first time, after two months of design concepts and working with the chairs, the final product was judged by a panel of experts.

To view the pictures of all the chairs and its creators, click here.

“We are exceptionally grateful to Sankar Viswanath, managing director of Swiss Corporation for Design and Technology. The firm provided the chairs and gave each student a choice of design books from Vitra, as well as other prizes,” said JB Savage, head of design and technology, SES.

Year 12 and 13 students were put into teams to present their chairs, explaining the concept behind the look and the challenges faced completing the project.

“One of the nicest comments came from one of the judges. He asked: ‘How are we expected to judge these? The level is far too high; I was not expecting such talented students’,” said Savage.

First place went to ‘Well Travelled’. “The judges chose this design for numerous reasons. They liked the fact the chair was multicultural and incorporated the spirit of the school. They were also impressed with how the students recycled hundreds of tickets to complete it. Lastly, a suitcase handle was added, giving a great finish to the chair, making it functional in more than one way,” said Savage.

“We really wanted to pay tribute to the fact that the chair can be found anywhere in the world. That’s where the idea of using baggage tags came from. Also, we want to highlight the international aspect of the school and local community,” said student Don Lakwin Kannangara.

Second place went to ‘Sculptchair’. “The judges felt the students understanding of shape and form was very impressive,” said Savage. Student Faisal Hamza said the colour scheme was influenced by Piet Mondrian’s compositions.

The panel deliberated for a long time and instead of picking a winner and a runner-up, it decided to choose a third place too.

‘Knitted’ won the third spot. The judges were impressed with how the beginning or end of the wool could not be seen. “The finish on the chair was clean and neat, the wool was pulled tightly, the colours contrasted well with different widths of each fabric and a mix of bright and dark colours; overall it came out just as we wanted, if not better.

A design movement known as yarn bombing was brought to our attention prior to the final design; this idea was an influence on the variety of colours and widths on our chair,” said student Caitlin Mackenzie-Powell.
Savage said the project will be repeated with the hopes of it becoming an annual event.

The students agreed the project was beneficial in many ways. Jay Hopkins said: “As it was my first real design competition, I had to look at things differently and a lot more in-depth via a design aspect.” Olivia Bailey said it helped her develop key communication skills in a design team.

Narek Koroukian added the experience gave him the confidence to look into different aspects of designs. Hopkins agreed and said the design section was both fun and challenging, and encouraged him to look at furniture design in a different light. “Overall this challenge provided the perfect platform for us to experience the real world of design,” said Sonam Chopra.

Savage said it strengthened the pupils’ A–level portfolio and is a strong point in the background of young adults entering university to study design or architecture.

Emmad Chinoy said: “Being a part of this competition is incredible. Knowing I have re-designed a Panton chair is a real achievement.”


  • Well Travelled: Ashley Jay Hopkins and Don Lakwin Kannangara
    Sculptchair: Sam Hopkins, Faisal Hamza and Emmad Chinoy
    Knitted: Sonam Chopra and Caitlin Mackenzie-Powell
    Butterfly Effect: Yiota Cornelisse and Ben Menzies
    Sacked: Sam Kaznowski and Narek Koroukian
    Panhatton: Olivia Bailey and Siddhant Sharma


  • Robert Reid, assistant professor of Architecture, AUS
    Ronald Estoque, project designer, City Space
    Mehdi Moazzen, partner, Point of Design