Friday, July 24, 2009

The Italian Modernism of Gio Ponti

If you've ever been curious about Italian modern design, Giò Ponti, one of Italy's most important architects, industrial designers, furniture designers, artists, and magazine publishers of the twentieth century, is a great place to start.

Born in Milan, Italy in 1891, Ponti went on to lead a life of very distinct stages. Graduating with a degree in architecture from the Politecnico di Milano University in 1921, the first stage of his architecture career began by partnering with two other Italian architects, Mino Fiocchi and Emilio Lancia from 1923 through 1927. In 1933, he would work solely with Lancia as Studio Ponti e Lancia PL. His early architectural work was influenced heavily by something called the Novecento Italiano movement, a Milanese neo-classical style that referenced great periods of Italian art and architecture, namely the 1400s and 1500s. Projects that Ponti had his hand in during this time are the 1929 Monument to the Fallen with the Novecento, the Casa Rasini apartment blocks in Milan and the 1930 Domus Julia–Domus Fausta complex on Via Letizia.

During his early architecture years, Ponti was also involved in industrial design, lending his skills to projects such as a line of furnishings "Domus Nova" for department stores, ceramic objects like vases and sanitary ware, furniture like the Ditex armchair for Cassina and the famous Superleggera chair that was light enough to be lifted by one finger. He also had a hand in designing glass bottles and lamps for companies like Artemide and Fontana Arte.

Ponti' s next life stage came when he began collaborating with Antonio Fornaroli and Eugenio Soncini, engineers. Together they created the Studio Ponti-Fornaroli-Soncini. Ponti was able to work on large and important projects like the offices for Fiat and the Palazzo del Liviano for the University of Padua. Ponti's biggest break and what some consider to be the most important structure of his career came in 1950 when he designed the Pirelli Tower in collaboration with two others, Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso. At a striking 32-stories, the tower was the first skyscraper built in Milan. He continued to work on architecture projects through the 1960s and late 1970s, up until a few years before his death in 1979.

To some, though is architecture is inspiring, Ponti's biggest influence came from two of the design magazines he founded, Domus in 1928 and Stile in 1941, Domus continuing to inform and inspire design enthusiasts around the world, and showing that Giò Ponti's modern Italian design influence reaches to today.

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