Gio Ponti

One of the most influential designers of the mid-20th century, Gio Ponti (1891-1979) helped to establish Italy as a global design center through a diverse career that spanned architecture, industrial design, art, and even publishing. However, his was a career that might never have begun if history had intervened only a bit more. Born and raised in Milan, Ponti decided upon a career in architecture as a young man and enrolled in in the architecture program at Politecnico di Milano University. However, his studies were postponed when World War I erupted throughout Europe.From 1916 to 1918, Ponti served his country as a captain in the Pontonier Corps. Despite the frustration of having to postpone his studies, Ponti served proudly and became a decorated veteran. During the war he earned both the Italian Military Cross and the Bronze Medal. After successfully serving his time in the military, Ponti returned to school and earned the architecture degree he had selflessly postponed several years before. He graduated university in 1921, and in the same year married Giulia Vimercati. The couple later celebrated the births of four children and eight grandchildren.To begin his career and establish his earliest influences, Ponti entered into a partnership with architects Emilio Lancia and Mino Fiocchi in 1923. During this time his accomplishments included the house on Via Randaccio in Milan (1925) and the Bouilhet villa in Garches, Paris (1926). After 1927 he partnered only with Lancia at Studio Ponti e Lancia PL. It was an arrangement that worked for the next seven years, during which time Ponti was heavily influenced by the neo-classical Novecento Italiano artistic movement. In 1929 Monument to the Fallen debuted, on which Ponti collaborated with architect Giovanni Muzio. Subsequent projects included the Casa Rasini apartment buildings in Milan as well as the Domus Julia-Domus Fausta complex in 1930. During this time, in 1928, Ponti also established the Domus magazine. The publication Ponti dedicated to architecture, art, and design became one of the world’s leading magazines of its type, and is still being published to this day.
Unbelievably, architecture was not the only area in which Ponti excelled during the 1920s. During this time he was also working in the field of industrial design after his debut at the first Biennial Exhibition of the Decorative Arts in Monza. In addition to his work in architecture, Ponti also worked for the porcelain manufacturer Richard-Ginori in Milan. Ponti served as the artistic director of this centuries-old company and was responsible for renovating their entire production output. These early jobs in the industrial design sector served as a springboard for further work in the field throughout Ponti’s career. Other design projects Ponti later pursued included ceramic objects and beautiful glass bottles such as those he designed for Venini. He also designed furnishings under the name Domus Nova, and a series of chairs which were considered highly innovative for their time. Among his famous chair designs were the Superleggera and Distex. Ponti also created a variety of lamps for companies like Artemide, Venini, and Fontana Arte, showcasing his diverse abilities by achieving distinct design goals for each project. One of the most famous lamps of this period is the Billia lamp which is well-known even today.

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