Transition to the Future

Precision and Form

This early cabinet exhibits Gio Ponti’s departure from the classical and elaborate designs popular in Italy during the 1920s and 1930s. In lieu of opulence, Ponti devotes his attention to the essential form and function of the object to create a cabinet that is free of excess ornamentation. The design’s precision is evident in Ponti’s “invention” of handles, expertly contoured to the hand, that blend seamlessly into the elegant façade, a detail he will revisit and redefine throughout his career. Further, this cabinet is the first time Ponti uses spayed, tapered legs, a feature that becomes a signature of his designs of the 1950s.

Drawing of the cabinet. Il Deco in Italia, Benzi

This unique cabinet was part of a suite of furniture designed for the bedroom of Enrichetta Richet, daughter of the important book collector Ugo Richet who worked at Domus for a number of years.

Detailed drawing of handle. Il Deco in Italia, Benzi

Gio Ponti

Gio Ponti excelled at painting as a child and expressed a fervent interest in the arts. Feeling that a career in architecture was preferable to that of a painter, Ponti’s parents encouraged him to pursue the former and in 1914 he enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. His studies were interrupted by war, and in 1915 he was forced to postpone his education. He served as a captain in the Pontonier Corps until 1919, earning multiple military honors. After graduating in 1921, Ponti married Giulia Vimercati, the daughter of local aristocracy and started an architecture firm. During this time, Ponti aligned himself with the neoclassical movement, Novecento and championed a revival of the arts and culture. In 1928, Ponti founded Domus, a periodical tailored to artists and designers, as well as the broader public. A shift occurred in the 1930s when Ponti took up a teaching post at his alma mater, the Politecnico di Milano. In search of new methods to express Italian modernity, Ponti distanced himself from the sentiments of Novecento and sought to reconcile art and industry. Together with the engineers, Eugenio Soncini and Antonio Fornaroli, Ponti enjoyed great success in the industrial sector, securing various commissions throughout Italy. In the 1950s, he gained international fame with the design of the Pirelli Tower in Milan and he was asked to be a part of the urban renewal of Baghdad, collaborating with top architects from around the world. His 1957 book, Amate l’architettura, is considered to be a microcosm of his work —an incredible legacy spanning art, architecture, industrial design, publishing and academia.

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