Gio Ponti – designing across all mediums

A skim around the broad-ranging design work of this designer and architect

Dates

Giovanni “Gio” Ponti, born 18th November 1891 in Milan, Italy, was an Italian architect, industrial designer, furniture designer, artist and publisher. He died 16th September 1979, Milan, Italy. Ponti graduated with a degree in Architecture in 1921 from the Politecnico di Milano University and the same year he married Giulia Vimercati

Hotel Parco dei Principi

One project for which Ponti was particularly famous was his work on the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento. He designed the whole building and, in collaboration with Ceramica D’Agnostino, created the designs for the blue and white ceramic tiles which were used throughout the hotel in the entrance, reception area, bar, restaurant and bedrooms. You can still see these today if you wish as the Parco dei Principi hotels are still open and running, in Sorrento and in Rome.

Infinite Blue. The ceramic tile design for the entrance (Libero) of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento by Gio Ponti

Infinite Blue. The ceramic tile design for the entrance (Libero) of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento by Gio Ponti

Lounge area of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento showing the tile design by Gio Ponti.

Lounge area of the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento showing the tile design by Gio Ponti.

Ponti was fascinated by the restraint imposed by a 20 x 20cm square and the paradoxical infinity of designs that could be created within that space. His treatment of the wall tiling in the Hotel Parco dei Principi was a complete break away from the traditional idea of butting up tiles to one another. His tiles enjoy a space on their own, like small pieces of art, displayed regularly and neatly alongside other ceramic pieces. And they are not flat – instead they are concave or richly convex and irresistible to touch. Again, this concept of “spaced out” shapes recurs on his furniture.

Textured ceramic wall tiling designed by Gio Ponti for the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, Italy. You can see the pillar on which they are set in the previous photo.

Textured ceramic wall tiling designed by Gio Ponti for the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, Italy. You can see the pillar on which they are set in the previous photo.

Pattern translated to form

The circles, half-moons, ovoids, stripes stars, dots, stylised leaves and geometrica were a distinct theme in Ponti’s work and recur as patterns on his furniture. Even by simply using contrasting upholstery panels his furniture echoes these distinctive patterns, as in his pair of lounge chairs from the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Rome. The ivory side panels contrast with the dusty pale jade seat and back and the legs, finished in black, create spikes of further pattern within the whole.

Contrasting upholstery panels on this Gio Ponti pair of lounge chairs from the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Rome.

Contrasting upholstery panels on this Gio Ponti pair of lounge chairs from the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Rome.

When Ponti’s design is translated from pattern to form the result is a celebration of the curve – sweeping, sumptous and enticing. His Walnut and Glass coffee table has legs that seem about to run off and this style is still influencing today’s furniture designs.

1950s walnut and glass coffee table by Gio Ponti, for sale by 1st Dibs at £9,294.32

1950s walnut and glass coffee table by Gio Ponti, for sale by 1st Dibs at £9,294.32

Chest of drawers by Molteni & C with a variety of timbers in rounded-off decorative rectilinear panels on the drawers. Designed by Gio Ponti. Note the characteristic wide spacing between the panels.

Chest of drawers by Molteni & C with a variety of timbers in rounded-off decorative rectilinear panels on the drawers. Designed by Gio Ponti. Note the characteristic wide spacing between the panels.

Modern design, classic comfort and practicality

Gio Ponti for Casa E Giardino Curved Sofa, Italy, circa 1938 being sold by 1st Dibs for £19,363

Gio Ponti for Casa E Giardino Curved Sofa, Italy, circa 1938 being sold by 1st Dibs for £19,363

Ponti’s upholstered pieces are very much of their time, the economy of line and all having a compact appearance but are also utterly timeless. Even without the current craze for midcentury furniture his Yellow velvet threee-seater sofa for Casa E could be placed anywhere with its echoes of classic sofas in its plump seat cushions, embracing shape, deeply upholstered and piped base and slim but jaunty arm rests, Furthermore the Giardino, being only 1.75 metres in length (69 inches) is an extremely space-saving and practical piece of seating.

Along with Ico Parisi, the husband of his former student Luisa, Gio Ponti was an inspiration for the interior design of the Devonshire Club Hotel in London by March and White.

The Causerie, The Devonshire Club Hotel, London UK. The furniture and interior design, by March and White, was inspired by Gio Ponti

The Causerie, The Devonshire Club Hotel, London UK. The furniture and interior design, by March and White, was inspired by Gio Ponti.