Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Enchanting Elegance—Gio Ponti

Gio Ponti was one of the most prominent and prolific designers of the last century. For over six decades, this Italian gentleman designed buildings, furniture, ceramics, and textiles (above—in a cotton suit, with a bow tie).

Above: Gio Ponti designed flatware.

Above: Amethyst, turquoise and amber Gio Ponti glass bottles by Venini.

In addition to being a trained architect, he also was a professor, artist, poet and magazine editor—always paying attention to the sublime details in his work. He was born in Milan on November 18, 1891, and died September 16, 1979.

In 1950, Mr. Ponti, won the commission to design the 32-story Pirelli Tower (in collaboration with Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso). The Pirelli Tower is his most iconic building, and the first skyscraper built in Milan.

A lesser-known building, and the only Gio Ponti designed building in the United States (with Colorado architect James Sudler), is the Denver Art Museum (above)—completed in 1971. The Daniel Libeskand, Frederic C. Hamilton building, opened adjacent to the Gio Ponti building in 2006—as part of the Denver Art Museum expansion. Mr. Peacock isn't too keen on this new annex, neither is the New York Times. Another addition, the Duncan Pavilion, was added in 2006 as a link between the Gio Ponti and Daniel Libeskand buildings.

As a child, my mother would take me to the Denver Art Museum to stroll through the galleries and for lunch afterwards in the café. I always thought it looked like a modern castle, and I imagined I lived there.

The entire surface is covered in 3-dimensional, steel gray tiles (above). This geometric shaped motif can be seen in other Gio Ponti works.

Various shaped windows are scattered throughout the building (above). The interior spaces elegantly flowed and allowed the artwork to shine.

The main entrance of the Ponti building had a large steel cylindrical shaped “tunnel.” I always imagined it was a slice of a submarine. It now has a tacky sign guiding visitors to the new main entrance, and was an unofficial bicycle parking area on my last pilmigrage. Sadly, the management of the Denver Art Museum doesn’t pay attention to details, like Mr. Ponti.

Above: Mr. Ponti designed so many wonderful furniture pieces.

Mr. Ponti designed the iconic chair, Superleggera (Superlight—see below left), in 1957. It’s simplicity belies it’s genius design—that is both comfortable and elegant looking...and of course it's super light.

Mr. Peacock has a half dozen Supperleggera chairs in aluminum with woven seats (above right). The sleek silhouette of the chair is ideal for apartments or small spaces. I can comfortably squeeze them all around my round table when I host dinner parties.
Above: A pair of ceramic vessels designed by Mr. Ponti for Richard Ginori, c. 1924.

In 1928, Mr. Ponti founded the design and architecture magazine Domus—published from its inception to 1999.
He remained the editor, with a brief sojourn, until his death. You can buy a complete reproduction set of Domus (above).

If Mr. Peacock wins the lottery, he would furnish his entire home in Gio Ponti (above and below—Ponti interiors).

Until then, there are some great books documenting the talent and work of Gio Ponti.

Above: A painting called, Gemini, by Gio Ponti.

Above: A Gio Ponti designed, Reed & Barton, coffee service with rattan handle.

Above: Gio Ponti ceramic tiles from 1964.

Gio Ponti is one of the most important design figures of the 20th century.This gentleman icon did it all—designing, writing, painting! Thank you Mr. Ponti!


Rene Schaller said...

nice to see my everyday-work in the blog :-)

if you look at the picture's from the taschen flagship-store in berlin, you see another piece of ponti - the big light was designed for a palazzo in milano 1932.

jason said...

I'd only really seen his furniture, before...and loved them.
I must investigate the buildings more.

I love your description: "like a slice of a submarine"


Another fab post Mr P! silver with rattan handles!!
During my travel I thought of you each time there's a nice logo/graphic design! ~XO as always*

MJ said...

Ahhh, the Italians. Is there anything they can’t do?

I like to imagine the young Mr. Peacock strolling with his mother through the modern day castle and lunching later in the café.

What a wonderful part of your upbringing.

Barima said...

I didn't realise before that I was familiar with a small part of his work (the chairs), so I appreciate the wealth of information in this post even more. Many thanks

Mr. Bluehaunt said...

The Denver Art Museum is misunderstood.... :(

I copper plated a pair of 80's Superleggera chairs for a client recently.....They are a perfect scale for small NY apartments.

Paulette P said...

Terrific information about the Great Gio!

Paulette P.

thombeau said...

Gio Ponti is one of my all-time design heroes! Yay!

Amarina said...

I too love the Denver Art Museum. It was completed when I was about 12 and my bff and I used to take the bus there on weekends and just wander. I'm not that crazy about the addition, to be honest.

Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories.