Light as a Feather

Ponti's Superleggera

In 1949 Gio Ponti embarked on a mission to create a simple, solid and functional chair for Cassina; the result was his masterful Leggera series. His original design was based on a traditional chair archetype and was extremely popular. However, in postwar Italy, minimizing use of material was essential and in 1952 Ponti adjusted his design. This early version of the chair is called the Leggera, or "Light," weighing 5 kilograms. The chair’s back features semi-artisanal workmanship, glued supports, round sections and a certain inexactness in its measurements, which means that no two examples are exactly alike.

Domus, No. 241, December 1949

Ponti continued to explore this increasingly popular chair form and he added making the chair "light as a feather" to his list of objectives. The final version of the chair features triangular legs, tongue and groove and joint assembly; not only did Ponti save weight by using less wood and eliminating glue, he also decreased the amount of labor acquired for assembly, thus dramatically decreasing the cost per chair. His exploration culminated in the 1957 Superleggera, a chair that weighs only 1.7 kilograms.

Pages from the 1960 Cassina catalog that accompanies this set of chairs.

Gio Ponti 1891–1979

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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