Architect, designer, art director, writer, poet, critic: Gio Ponti has been an all-around artist, who crossed through the entire XX century, profoundly marking his taste, mirroring his most significant instances and anticipating many themes of contemporary architecture.
Forty years on from his death, the MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts is dedicating a major retrospective to this exceptional figure, who studies and communicates his versatility, starting from the story of its architecture, a unique synthesis and original of tradition and modernity, history and design, elite culture and everyday life.
The exhibition, whose title is GIO PONTI. Amare l’architettura echoes his best-known book, Amate l’architettura, in the scenic MAXXI Gallery 5 from 27 November 2019 to 27 September 2020, it is curated by Maristella Casciato (Senior Curator of Architectural Collections at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles ) and Fulvio Irace (architectural critic and historian) with Margherita Guccione (Director of MAXXI Architecture), Salvatore Licitra (Manager of Gio Ponti Archives), Francesca Zanella (CSAC President) and it is created by MAXXI in collaboration with CSAC – Study and Archive Center of communication at the University of Parma – which preserves the professional archive of Gio Ponti – and Gio Ponti Archives.
Main partner Eni.
For Giovanna Melandri, President of the MAXXI Foundation “Celebrating the greatness of Gio Ponti means immersing yourself in a legacy that has no equal in versatility, inspiration and application. Private buildings and public clients, companies and places of study, everyday objects and furnishings for offices and ships, cathedrals and museums, alternate in a research, never dogmatic or ideological, in which classicism and modernity, natural landscape and horizon dialogue urban, social vocation of space and protection of beauty “.
Margherita Guccione, Director of MAXXI Architettura says: “Neither classic nor modern, Gio Ponti’s artwork was unique in the history of Italian architecture of the twentieth century, a century that the architect went through almost entirely, passing from the design of the object of “daily use to the invention of spatial solutions for the modern home, to the realization of complex projects in the urban context, always keeping the architecture, scenery and aid of our life at the center of its research”.
The exhibition is the result of careful research, which aims to update a knowledge about an architect Ponti, highlighting some of the guiding themes of his long activity and his extraordinary ability to prefigure spaces and motifs of contemporary architectural research: the aspiration to verticality and lightness through the dematerialization of the facades, the conception of a green city in which Nature is becoming a part of the urban planning and architecture agenda, the flexibility of domestic spaces capable of adapting to the needs of the its user, are undoubtedly themes that more than half a century ago anticipated, with unprecedented clarity, the tones of today’s sensitivity.
Archival materials, original models, photographs, books, magazines, design classics at the exhibition are closely linked to his architectural projects and organized into eight sections that evoke key concepts expressed by Ponti. The step up is immersive and spectacular, andh implies the master’s idea of space: fluid, dynamic, colorful.
The visitor is greeted by a powerful installation of large banners in Alcantara, suspended in the full-height spaces of Zaha Hadid, which reproduce stylized facades of skyscrapers and evoke the skyline of a never-seen Pontian city, in the museum lobby.
Coming out of the elevators that lead to the Gallery 5, on the third floor, the reproduction of the fantastic yellow used for the pavement of the ramp immediately transports the visitor inside the most famous Pontian skyscraper: the Pirelli skyscraper in Milan.
Before entering the gallery, Thomas Demand’s photo project recounts the exceptional models of vertical buildings preserved in the CSAC archive and on display.
Inside the Gallery, the section “Verso la casa esatta” traces the theme of the house, which is principal in the Ponti’s research for the definition of a space suited to modern life: and here are the first typical Milanese Domus, the projects for La Casa adatta exhibited at the Eurodomus in 1970 and, above all, the synthesis of many reflections carried out over time by the architect: his apartment in via Dezza in Milan.
The path continues with a focus on the Classicismi projects that Ponti had during the thirties, when important clients gave rise to imposing projects on an urban scale, such as the School of Mathematics in Rome, 1934, or the two Montecatini Palaces in Milan, 1936 and 1951.
The osmotic relationship between architecture and nature is explored in Abitare la Natura, where the projects carried out along the Mediterranean coasts (Villa Marchesano in Bordighera, 1938, the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento, 1959) to arrive at more organic and almost intimate projects, like the house called Scarabeo sotto la foglia and the villa for Daniel Koo in California.
Then we come to the most well-known buildings – documented in the Architettura della superficie section – which are the complete expression of a design concept that reasons for flat surfaces rather than volumes, where the facades become two-dimensional surfaces to be pierced and folded like sheets of paper.Among these, the well-known Villa Planchart in Caracas (1953-57) or the Italian Cultural Institute of Stockholm in 1958, works that also attest to the international calibre reached by Ponti’s work by now.
L’Architettura è un cristallo is the aphorism that celebrates the planimetric idea of the closed, finite form, which gives life to a faceted layout like a crystal. This section collects some great works such as the Denver Art Museum (1971) and the church of San Carlo Borromeo in Milan, but also some small-scale projects, to underline the all-Pontian ease in moving from the urban dimension to that one of design, inside of a single, coherent and integrated concept of the project. The cutlery designs for Christofle, the ceramics for Marazzi, the handles for Olivari, the washbasins for Ideal Standard, the Superleggera chair by Cassina and even the bodywork model for a car of a line not by chance called Diamante were on display.
Lightness and dematerialization of the elevations characterize the Facciate leggere section, with the Co-Cathedral of Taranto (1970), the Bijenkorf Department Store in Eindhoven, the Palaces for the Ministries of Islamabad.
The exhibition closes with the same unpublished suggestion with which it was opened, namely the Pontian city, made of skyscrapers that develop in height and reduce the occupation of land to leave room for greenery. This image emerges forcefully in the sections Apparizioni di grattacieli and Lo Spettacolo delle Città, hosted precisely where Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI is closest to her city, that is, close to the large window that closes the Museum’s Gallery 5 to open towards the panorama of the Rome of the twentieth century. Next to the skyscrapers and the city, as a demonstration of a thought that ranges seamlessly from the urban context to the domestic environment, there is the reading room, which recalls the interior of the house in via Dezza, with the reproduction of the ceramic floor created for the occasion by Ceramica De Maio and the presence of the furnishings designed by Ponti and produced by Molteni.
The exhibition is enriched with a sort of exhibition in the exhibition thanks to a photographic commission project conceived and curated by Paolo Rosselli who, together with seven other authors chosen by him, gave life to a series of contemporary glances on as many Pontian works, showing its life today.
Delfino Sisto Legnani confronted himself with the Co-Cathedral of Taranto; Allegra Martin with the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento; Giovanni Chiaramonte with Villa Planchart in Caracas; Filippo Romano with the Bijenkorf department store in Eindhoven; Giovanna Silva with Il Liviano (Faculty of Letters) and Palazzo del Bo (Rectorate), University of Padua; Michele Nastasi with the first and second Montecatini buildings in Milan; Stefano Graziani with the School of Mathematics in Rome; Paolo Rosselli with the Pirelli skyscraper in Milan.
Catalog is published by Forma Edizioni, edited by Maristella Casciato and Fulvio Irace, double edition in Italian and English. 300 pages, 150 images. Contributions from 45 authors, including: Giorgio Ciucci, Barry Bergdoll, Domitilla Dardi, Anat Falbel, Farhan Karim, Jorge Rivas, Règean Legault, Bernard Colembrader, Alessandra Muntoni.
The exhibition is a part of a wider collaboration agreement between MAXXI and CSAC University of Parma.