Hidden gems in the Gio Ponte neighborhood – WWD

It’s about to Snack Time in Milan’s Viale Coni Zugna in a 1930s-era building south of the city center designed by Gio Ponti called Domus Adele. Two local women sip a cold drink as the waning summer sun floods the arched window, while in another room a pre-teen girl chats about Netflix series and smartphone plans.

The owner, Francesca Russo, grew up in the area, watching the fur-coat-studded streets fade away and come back to life in a contemporary era with families pushing strollers, bankers on bikes, the fashion set and the corresponding catwalk movement. . She decided to spend big on the three-bedroom apartment in 2008 for several reasons: the area’s charm, high ceilings, abundant light on the upper floors, thick walls that keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and, yes, because it’s a “valuable asset” she hopes will She passes it on to her daughter.

Designed as a model house, Domus Adele, despite its prestigious origin, is riddled with a host of typical problems: a leaky roof after a big summer storm and falling hand-made tiles, which, according to local historical authorities, should be replaced by the proper house. The same ones 85 years ago. Tiles were an obsession of Ponti’s, rooted in his time at Richard Ginori, where he rose to the position of art director and was able to bring his love of drawing to design and decor.

Gio Ponti in his architectural office on Via d’Ezza, 1964.

© IUAV Venice – Project Archive, Giorgio Casali Collection.

All of the Ponti houses in Milan were designed as symbols of “pleasant” urban architecture, according to Gio Ponti’s book (Taschen), and were shaped in close collaboration with the Gio Ponti Archives and its founder, Ponti’s grandson Salvatore Licitra. The book states: “Undesirable buildings were the result of a moral deficiency, not an economic one, because they stem from a deficiency of thought.”

Rousseau confirms that Domus Adele is indeed nice.

“The house costs more to maintain than most other houses, but it’s a charming apartment, so it doesn’t matter,” she says.

Its space was divided into multiple dwellings to reflect the modern, reduced purchasing power of the upper class and was one-third the size, versus the spacious full-storey house Ponti had envisioned on a quiet street in the 1930s. “Once upon a time, there were servants here, servants’ quarters… The room we’re sitting in was the dining room, facing what used to be a rural area. At that time, the wealthy wanted to face the street, and there were almost no cars.” When it was built “Times have changed,” Russo says.

Church of San Francesco d'Assisi al Foponino, Milan, 1961-1964.

Church of San Francesco d’Assisi al Foponino, Milan, 1961-1964.

Luca Rotondo

A few streets away, inside San Francesco d’Assisi al Foponino on Via Paolo Giovio, Saturday vespers are said by an elderly woman who recites each psalm steadily, even though her microphone is not working. At first glance, the 1960s-era church appears to be made of the same diamonds that make up paper snowflakes. A Milanese from Genoa, a design enthusiast, says he was surprised to find such a marvel in an unusual residential location.

“This is so wonderful. I had no idea this existed here,” he says, watching the final Saturday Mass before setting off for the last part of his summer vacation. The late-summer heat pierces through and members of the congregation encourage themselves in front of Francesco Taboso’s 1975 thermal and oil painting. , “Canticle of the Creatures”, a depiction of Saint Francis in the forest.

To achieve the look of a dynamic and lively facade, Ponti sought to use multi-dimensional, iridescent diamond-shaped ceramic tiles typical of the type of religious buildings for which he was famous, such as the Catholic Cathedral in Taranto, Puglia. The San Francesco d’Assisi al Foponino – with its delicate pendant brass lamps and sinuous geometric members – is a testament to the time when Ponti turned his attention to the Far East, where he created futuristic ministerial buildings in Islamabad in Pakistan and an administration villa. The book refers to Hong Kong department store tycoon Daniel Koo.

Albert Leclerc, the celebrated designer, academic and veteran corporate identity director at the historic typewriter-to-computer conversion company Olivetti, was an apprentice at Ponti in 1961. He fondly remembers when these churches were exquisite cardboard displays dotted around the studio . The Ponti-Fornaroli-Rosselli studio, located behind the Ponti family home, a place Ponti referred to as “the shed,” taught the novice that work could actually be fun, he says.

Gio Ponti in 1959 in Alitalia's New York office, with a ceramic wall design dedicated to Fausto Melotti, which includes three of the artist's figurative sculptures placed inside Ponti's illuminated brass sconce, Quadro Luminoso, by Arredoluce, 1957.

Gio Ponti in 1959 in Alitalia’s New York office, with a ceramic wall design dedicated to Fausto Melotti, which includes three of the artist’s figurative sculptures placed inside Ponti’s illuminated brass sconce, Quadro Luminoso, by Arredoluce, 1957.

© Gio Ponti Archive / Historical Archive of the Ponti Heirs / Photography by Dan Wynn

“I was there and I was happy to be with the greats of design and architecture. It was a dream for me to be in that kind of creative environment every day,” recalls the 88-year-old Montreal native, sitting at his dining room table in Milan surrounded by his sculptures. “palingenesis” colored with Crayola colors.

Leclerc recalls that Ponti was generous not only with his expertise but also with his time, especially with his students at the Politecnico di Milano. Leclerc, who also trained under Italian architect Ettore Sottsass, was sometimes invited to Ponti’s house for coffee, alongside his design peers.

In a catty corner of Milan’s Parco Solari, where children’s laughter can be heard on any day the weather permits, stands an apartment building called Domus Attica, perhaps one of Ponti’s greatest tributes. The building was designed in 1957 and represents the place where the Milanese citizen would spend his last days in a house that he considered an expression of his living culture, passions and themes. The building’s concierge welcomes guests courteously. “You wouldn’t believe how many tourists pass through here,” says Licitra as she enters the lobby.

The architect and designer’s home was an open-plan space on the eighth floor featuring rooms connected by sliding doors that were functional and representative of modern life and the needs of growing families in urban environments. The façade was conceived to allow the overlay of stripes – on each floor, residents were allowed to choose their own exterior color and window styles, in a process Ponti called “spontaneous architecture.”

In Milan’s idyllic family neighborhood, it’s easy to miss the smog-smeared plaque on the building that says: “In this house conceived, lived Gio Ponti.”

“So…what stories can I tell you?” says Licitra, sitting on a chair designed by Gio Ponti in the indifferent environment of the Gio Ponti archive. The eye quickly wanders through the office featuring widely recognized icons such as the D.859.1 table, reproduced by Molteni&C, the 687 chair designed for Cassina, and the 1954 coffee table with mesh top, as well as unexpected treasures such as a copy of the chair designed for the SS Andrea Doria, The Italian line’s luxury transatlantic liner sank off the coast of North America in 1956. “It’s famous because it sank,” he says.

Licitra switches between referring to his grandfather by his last name and nonno while talking about the Ponti family legacy, motioning to the Ponti table in need of repair. “This table is made of oak and I need to have it repaired by a craftsman… And here is a chair whose name I don’t remember anymore because he made so many models… This is from the 1950s; I find it really beautiful though.”

Licitra says Ponti was incredibly generous with his vision and expertise, which resulted in a lot of models that were similar to his but by someone else. As a result, Licitra spends a lot of time validating Ponti’s designs.

To make matters even more confusing, Ponti also teamed up with a man named Walter Ponti simply because they shared the same last name. “One day, his wife said, ‘Walter, why don’t you call Gio Ponti and maybe you can do something together,’ and so he came to Milan to meet Ponti, after writing this really enthusiastic letter,” Licitra says, referring to a special chair called the Sedia di Poco Sedile (seat chair), a type of back design where the back legs of the chair are placed in the front and the front legs are in the back. “It’s surprisingly comfortable,” Licitra reassures.

Gio Ponti by Salvatore Licitra, Stefano Casciani, Lisa Licitra Ponti, Brian Kish, Fabio Marino, and Karl Kolbitz. Copyrights

Courtesy of Taschen

Woven between Ponti’s old experiments and reproductions are photographs taken by Licitra and his wife in New York City, and on the wall, another piece, an optical illusion produced by Licitra, in which the eye opens through a handcrafted grill and closes as the viewer approaches.

Licitra, son of Lisa Licitra Ponti, editor-in-chief of Domus (Gio Ponti’s magazine founded in 1928), is a contemporary art photographer who has also been a conceptual artist since the 1980s.

The next generation is also making its own way. Nicola, Licitra’s 22-year-old son, Gio Ponti’s grandson and a young photographer, has taken up temporary residence in the archive, until his new place is ready. Licitra’s mood brightens when he talks about his growing family, which includes three adult children and four grandchildren. One senses that Ponti, who was born Giovanni Ponti in 1891 to a Milanese family, was destined to see his legacy flourish here in his homeland.

“Some are here, some are there, but we are all in Milan,” says Licitra.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *