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Design Icon: Gio Ponti

Gio Ponti can be considered the developer of modern architecture and modern industrial design in Italy with a diverse career that spans from architecture, industrial design, art, and even publishing. His unlimited creativity is still today source of inspiration for many designers worldwide.

Gio Ponti Portrait
Interiors of Villa Arreaza in Caracas designed by Gio Ponti in 1956

Giovanni "Gio" Ponti was born in Milan in 1891. He enrolled in the Architecture program at Politecnico di Milano University but had to postpone his studies due to World War I. After successfully serving his time in the military Gio Ponti returned to University and earned the architecture degree in 1921. Until 1938 he worked with the renowned ceramics brand Richard Ginori. This early job in the industrial design sector served as a spring board for further work in the field throughout Ponti’s career; meanwhile he entered a partnership with architects Emilio Lancia and Mino Fiocchi in 1923. In 1927 Gio Ponti started collaborating with Lancia at ‘Studio Ponti e Lancia PL’ and was heavily influenced by the neo-classical Novecento Italiano artistic movement.

In 1928, together with Gianni Mezzocchi, Gio Ponti founded the Domus magazine, one of the world’s leading magazines of its type, which is still being published today. Around 1933, Ponti ended his relationship with Lancia and teamed with two engineers to form Studio Ponti-Fornaroli-Soncini. In 1941, Ponti launched a second magazine: “Stile” and started demonstrating a strong interest for decorative arts as well as for painting and stage design. Ponti started designing furnishings under the name Domus Nova, a series of highly innovative chairs and lighting pieces for a number of companies, including: Artemide, Venini, and Fontana Arte.

In 1950 Gio Ponti reached the climax of his career winning the commission to design the Pirelli Tower, Milan's second skyscraper, in collaboration with Pier Luigi Nervi and Arturo Danusso. As the Pirelli Tower attracted more attention, international commissions came into Ponti's office, among others, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Handwoven and in 1971 the Denver Art Museum. Between 1960 and 1962 Ponti designed and realized the first Italian Design hotel: the Parco dei Principi in Sorrento.

The most resistant element is not wood, is not stone, is not steel, is not glass. The most resistant element in building is art. Let’s make something very beautiful.

The Hall of the hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, designed by Gio Ponti in the 1960s. Photo by Marco Zuppetta
Tiles and armchair design by Gio Ponti exhibited at 'The World of Gio Ponti, Father of Modern Italian Design' exhibition by TORAFU. Photo by Daici Ano
Gio Ponti flooring design for the Salzburger Nachrichten. Photo of Gio Ponti Archives
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