Gio Ponti was born in Milan on 18th November 1891, where he graduates at the Faculty of Architecture, Polytechnic in 1921.
In the same year he opened his first practice with architects Emilio Lancia and Mino Fiocchi, joining the “Milanese neo-classicists” group. These were the years of the house in Via Randaccio in Milan and Villa Bouilhet at Garches in Paris.
With Lancia, Buzzi, Marelli, Venini and Chiesa, in 1927, he founded “Il Labirinto”, with the aim of producing avanguardistic high quality furniture.
From 1923 to 1930, he was Richard-Ginori’s artistic director creating a refined porcelain collection awarded at the Paris expo in 1925.
Contemporarly he designs for Christofle, Krupp, and Venini.
In 1928, he founded “Domus” magazine which he will direct throughout his life making it an instrument for spreading new design ideas in architecture, in interior design, in the decorative arts.
From the end of the 1920s, are the first “typical houses”, emblematically called ‹‹Domus››, where interest in rationalist theories was combined with the concept of Italianness.
The association with Lancia ends in 1933, with the Rasini house at the Bastioni di Porta Venezia in Milan.
To be remembered his commitment in the Milan Triennials (1930, 1933, 1936, 1940 and 1951) and, with the Ponti-Fornaroli-Soncini studio until 1945, the Palazzo Montecatini, the Palazzo RAI, the Rectorate of the University of Padua, the Institute of Mathematics of Rome, Casa Marmont and Casa Laporte in Milan, Villa Donegani in Bordighera.
From 1936 he is professor at the Faculty of Architecture of the Milan Polytechnic.
In 1941 he founded the magazine ‹‹Stile››, which he directed until 1947 and in 1954 he invented the “Compasso d’Oro”.
Since the early 1950s – and since 1952 associated with Fornaroli and Rosselli – Ponti has launched an extraordinary series of projects, an expression of the theory of the “finished form”, in the field of furniture with “organized walls” (self-illuminating furniture, furnished windows, panel dashboard), the design of iconic furniture for Cassina (from the Leggera chair from 1951, to the Distex and Round armchair from 1956) and of architectures, as for instance the Villa Planchart and Villa Arreaza in Caracas and Villa Nemazee in Tehran. And of course, the Pirelli Tower, 1956, and the “Superleggera” chair, 1957.
In the 1960s, Ponti’s attention shifts to surfaces, color and light.
Among these years are, among others, the project of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, the churches of San Francesco and San Carlo in Milan, the facade of the Bijenkorf in Einhoven in the Netherlands, that of the INA Palace in Via San Paolo in Milan, the Pakistan House Hotel in Islamabad, up to, in the 70s, the Denver Museum in Colorado and the Cathedral of Taranto where the work on the surfaces is accentuated until the dematerialization and the architecture becomes a perforated sheet, which in its play with light, with folds and transparencies, dissolves the volumes.
Gio Ponti died in Milan in September 1979.
Courtesy Salvatore Licitra – Gio Ponti Archives