LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Gio Ponti: Designing La Dolce Vita


Design maestro Gio Ponti captured the spirit of his time during the 1920s to 1970s and is celebrated for his sensual breed of modernism. As yet more of his iconic designs are reproduced we take a look at his exuberant aesthetic.

"Love architecture, be it ancient or modern,” wrote Gio Ponti (1891-1979) in the opening of Amate L’Architettura, his 1957 collection of essays. “Love it for its fantastic, adventurous and solemn creations; for its inventions; for the abstract, allusive and figurative forms that enchant our spirit and enrapture our thoughts. Love architecture, the stage and support of our lives."

But Italian-born Gio Ponti loved more than just architecture. As well as being the genius behind Milan’s landmark Pirelli Tower – often cited as the pinnacle of his career – he was also a prolific industrial designer, a poet, painter, journalist and editor as the founder of Domus magazine in 1928. Most celebrated today for his archive of eclectic furniture and home accessories, he made chairs for Cassina (the 1957 Superleggera chair is just one of his works considered to be a design classic), glassware for Venini, cuterly for Christofle, lamps, ceramics, textiles and more.

"Industry is the style of the 20th century, its mode of creation," wrote Ponti after winning the Grand Prix at the 1925 Paris Expo. Yet again this quotation fails to capture Ponti in the truest sense. Form follows function and other modernist principles were undoubtedly part of Ponti’s creative process but so was design as a means to la dolce vita. Ponti frequently collaborated with Piero Fornasetti, known for his intricate, surrealist imagery. He described the design of his 1960 Villa Nemazee in Tehran as evoking, “joie de vivre”. The Ponti-deigned interiors of the Parco dei Principi Hotel in Sorrento continue to function as a playground for the aesthetically conscious after they were restored in 2008. The sensual curves of his 1948 Pavoni coffee machine that helped make espresso culture chic encapsulate the Ponti-designed lifestyle.

A clearer picture of the exuberant Ponti philosophy for design that was to be enjoyed can be found in a recent spate of re-editions. Parisian silversmith Christofle worked with Ponti from 1928 to 1978 on a canon of perfectly proportioned cutlery and silver objects, some of which were recreated in 2008 in a collection of 25 Ponti-designed objects. Among the more iconic of the Christofle-Gio Ponti pieces that are still available are the angular, v-shaped Volo Centerpieces; the sensual floating Tubi Vase; the hexagonal Architettura tray; and the famous intertwined art deco Fleche Candelabra.

The latest manufacturer to produce Ponti’s designs is Molteni, which at Milan’s Salone del Mobile furniture fair in April presented a capsule collection of his furniture. “The idea came two years ago when I saw a bookcase that Ponti once had in his house in Via Dezza at Paolo Rosselli's house,” says Franceca Molteni, who oversaw the project. “Rosselli is one of the heirs of the Ponti archives. The bookcase dated from the 1950s. It was very beautiful, simple, linear in white-painted wood that seemed a bit faded.”

As well as the bookcase, the Molteni collection includes a coffee table with geometric print top and Ponti’s signature tapered legs and a graphic carpet, both of which can be seen in historical photographs of Ponti’s house in Milan. Working from the basis of “drawings, the recollections of his heirs, and on the original pieces if they could be found,” Molteni has a number of other Ponti designs in the works and will not cap production to limited editions. “The idea was not to make a limited number of pieces for collectors but to bring Ponti's furniture into today's homes,” says Molteni. The design maestro himself would approve

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