Gio Ponti

Giovanni (Gio) Ponti was born in Milan in via Meravigli on the 18 November 1891, and lived in Milan his whole life. For over sixty years Ponti worked tirelessly, designing buildings and objects, organising the Triennale, starting and editing magazines, writing books, teaching at the Polytechnic, furnishing homes and ocean liners, decorating ceramics and creating sets for the Scala theatre. He earned his degree from the Milan Polytechnic in 1921 and grew close to the group of artists and architects flourishing in Milan during those years. This inspires his first architectural works and his first steps in the world of applied arts and industrial design, including his position as artistic director for ceramics manufacturing company Richard Ginori in 1923, and the founding, in 1927, of the design company for "furnishings and modern art objects" called "Il Labirinto" and the "Domus Nova" furnishing collection created for the department stores "La Rinascente". In 1928 he became editor of the well-known "Domus" magazine devoted to architecture and interior design, a position he held for the following fifty years. In 1933 he began a thirty-year collaboration with the "Corriere della Sera" newspaper, writing for their third page. Ponti held architecture to be the hallmark of civilization and "social happiness". The "Typical Homes", built by Ponti between 1931 and 1938 in Via Letizia, Via Caravaggio and Via De Togni, in Milan reflect his effort to define modern homes not from a strictly technical point of view.
In 1933 Ponti's work began exhibiting a more modern touch. The building of the Mathematics Faculty at the University of Rome (1933-35), the works carried out on the Faculty of Literature and the Rectorate of the University of Padova (1934-41), and the first Montecatini building in Milan, an avant-garde structure, perfect for its technical use and classical conception, (1936-38), are all prime examples of this phase. With construction coming to a halt during WWII, Ponti devoted himself to writing and reflecting on the imminent reconstruction phase. He funnelled his energy into the new magazine "Stile", which he founded and directed from 1941, and in the writing and curating of numerous books. However, he was never to partake in the reconstruction efforts.
Resuming his positions at "Domus" in 1948, and at the "Corriere della Sera", Ponti reprised his role of propagator of modernism in all forms of art, major and minor, to new techniques and new language. He became an interior designer for ocean liners, a scenographer, costume designer, discovering new themes - "diamond inspired" architecture, finished form, architectural lighting design - and experimenting with new construction materials. These are the years of the "Diamond Line" created for the Carrozzeria Touring (1953), of the "Superleggera", the "chair-chair" created for Cassina in 1957, of his "composite furniture" (fireplace-armoires, headboard-dashboards, "furnished" windows), of the cutlery designed for Krupp and the bathroom fixtures for Ideal Standard.
Diamonds, with their various faces and absence of parallel lines, are the protagonists of the 1945 book L'Architettura è un cristallo, and the starting point of a new type of architecture, embracing closed profiles and faceted surfaces. These new ideas serve as inspiration for the Institute of Italian Culture of the Lerici Foundation in Stockholm (1952-59), the Planchart and Arreaza villas in Caracas, Venezuela (1953-56) and the Pirelli skyscraper in Milan (1954-56), subsequently the icon of this architectural movement. Ponti obtained international recognition during the last two decades of his life, before his death on 16 December 1979. To truly understand Ponti's work and culture it is important to understand his deep religious faith which was a constant source of inspiration, as evidenced by the five churches he designed between 1955 and 1971.