On show in Paris, over five hundred pieces made by one of the greatest creative designers of the 20th Century.
On October 19th, an important retrospective entitled “Tutto Ponti, Giò Ponti archi-designer” opened its doors in Paris at the Museum of Decorative Arts. The exhibition is a review of the architect’s achievements: a production that ranges from architecture to industrial design, from furniture to glass and ceramics. Alongside his work as an architect, he also worked as a designer for mass production, convinced that beauty was in form and not in the exclusivity of the product. Rightfully, he described himself as a artist in love with architecture.
The exhibition includes more than 500 pieces from the 1920s and the late 1970s, some never seen before. An interesting part of the exhibit is the 6 interior reconstructions with furniture and objects that were conceived by Ponti. Moroever, the idea of the curators is to illustrate all his work while focusing in particular on design, an activity for which Ponti is not well known in France outside the circuit of experts and collectors. The curators include Salvatore Licitra, nephew of the architect and head of the “Giò Ponte Archives”, while the sponsors include Molteni & C, which recently put some of Ponti’s pieces of furniture back into production. The exhibition will be open until February 10th, 2019.
Ponti’s career began under Fascism when the country was in its full swing of construction and development. In fact, in order to fuel the machine of consensus, Mussolini had initiated an impressive public works policy that restarted the economy and changed the face of Italian cities. Moreover, due to the fact that the original popular and cooperative tone had been retained, there had been no directives from above and, unlike other authoritarian regimes, space had also been given to truly modern projects, connected to the European avantgarde movement.
Giò Ponti was part of a group of Milanese architects that were more classicist and less tied to international trends. In the 1930s, when the Regime put a halt to experimentations and pushed towards monumental architecture that evokes the glories of imperial Rome, Ponti was in a position where he had to have a vision of architecture in tune with the needs of the regime. Therefore, he would build the Mathematics Institute of the University City of Rome, a project strongly desired by Mussolini (1931-35).
Following the war
After the war, Italy was in ruins and Ponti participated in the reconstruction of the 1950s, when the country began building and rebuilding. Years of economic boom would follow and Giò built one of the symbols of this rebirth in Milan, the Pirelli skyscraper (1960). A polygon-shaped building, blunt on the sides, this building was designed to avoid the rigid parallelepiped shape and give impetus on the sides and an upward movement.
As well-being increased, the demand for consumer goods, including quality goods. In Italy small companies arose that created design objects where aesthetic elegance was combined with practicality and craftsmanship, then later to mass production and technological innovation. This combination of factors would lead to the affirmation of Italian Style in the world, and Ponti would be a leading exponent.
After all, his interest in design dated back to as early as 1923, when he had become artistic director of the Richard Ginori company, winning a prize at the Paris Exhibition of Decorative Arts of 1925 for a production of ceramics with neoclassical decorations. However, Ponti did not only work for the luxury industry, but also for the general public. In 1927, he created low-cost furniture for “La Rinascente”, making quality objects more accessible. In the same year he founded “Labirinto” a movement that connects designers and manufacturing companies such as Lancia, Venini and Marelli.
After the war, he finally turned his back on neoclassical language, and in 1952 he founded the studio Ponti-Fornaroli-Rosselli, which aimed at a highly innovative design, such as the “Superleggera” (meaning “Superlight”), a chair designed for Cassina. In 1956, thanks to his hard work and commitment, the ADI (Association for Industrial Design) was founded for the training of new designers.
In the 1960s, fascinated by the play of colour and light of certain surfaces, he used ceramics as a wall covering, giving lightness architectural structures. An example is the offices of Alitalia in New York, large rooms with a few walls covered with ceramics, where the eye sweeps free.
This experiment reached the “solution” of the Co-Cathedral in Taranto, his last work. A perforated wall protects the facade and is mirrored on pools of water, a sort of sail “accessible only to the eye and the wind” as he said.
Visit the exhibition and get to know the architect of “lightness”.