Door 21: Gio Ponti

Often multidisciplinary artists or artisans are criticized as their multiple interests limit their outcome or the quality of it, as they are only able to focus on parts of it and sometimes only halfhearted. This is not true for the Italian Gio Ponti. During his career, which span over 6 decades he worked as an architect, industrial designer, furniture designer, writer, artist and publisher.

In figures this means that as a designer he worked for 120 companies, as an architect, he built in 13 countries, as a magazine editor, he produced 560 issues and as an academic, he thought in 24 countries. Such a huge oeuvre of course covered diverse and sometimes conflicting styles, not only with the predominant zeitgeist, but also in his own work, which in the end makes the work of Gio Ponti even more interesting.

Born in 1891 in Milan, he served in the first world war between 1916 and 1918. After his return he studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano University and graduated in 1921. In the same year he married Giulia Vimercati. From the begging he set up his own architecture practice in varying constellations and with different partners. First projects were private houses and apartments and step by step the interest of companies like Fiat arose.

As mentioned above, he was originally trained as an architect, but started working from the beginning of his career in various design fields. His first employee from 1923 on was the ceramics manufacturer Richard Ginori, which rather showed neoclassical influences in complete contrast to the modern functional approach of his contemporaries. Under his design classics are among thousand others Billia lamp for Fontana Arte, designed in 1931, or the infamous Superleggera chair, designer in 1957 for Cassina.

His first magazine, the seminal Domus magazine he founded in 1928 and was his editor until 1941 and then again from 1948 until his death. In between he set up the Stile magazine, which he also edited. In the 560 issues that came out under his supervision, there was at least one article from him in the magazine, to show his work ethic also in his writing.

As the interest in his work grew, so also the size of his architectural works. In 1950 he won together with Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso the competition to design the Pirelli tower in Milano, which was at that time the second skyscraper in the city. Next to this he also designed buildings around the world like The Denver Art Museum, the Villa Planchart in Caracas or a series of Milanese churches. He died in 1979 at the age of 87 in Milan.