'Loving' Gio Ponti: a 130 years of a legacy unbound by style, but rather definitive of a new one; and a documentary film furthering that love on the occasion. A champion of industrial design through and through, having designed everything from skyscrapers to the objects adorning its individual units, Ponti has been highly regarded as a father figure in the arena of Italian design. Presented by Molteni Group, Amare Gio Ponti is a testament to the sheer stature of the Italian design legend, with a number of modern designers regarding him as a personal mentor, more than a pioneer who continuously redefined the fluxional bounds of his work, kickstarting an era of design refinement in what is now called the design capital of the world.
Curated by Francesca Molteni, and made possible by the cooperation of the Gio Ponti archives along with Ponti’s heirs, Amare Gio Ponti is an endearing compilation of testimonies from Ponti’s professional and personal kin. Also featuring exclusive interviews with publisher Benedikt Tacshen, an avid Ponti collector and fan, what perhaps becomes the documentary’s standout is seeing design greats including Enzo Mari, Alessandro Mendini, Nanda Vigo, and Vittorio Gregotti come together to speak highly of Ponti’s contribution to the developing language of Italian design: an event, a monumentality unto itself. The documentary may very well be among the last recorded testimonies of Mari, Vigo, and Mendini who we lost quite recently, making it all the more special. As a tribute to the legend of Ponti, Amare, in instances, assumes heartening proportions that embody and encircle an entire age in Italian design: bidding farewell to what was, cherishing what is, and beckoning what is to come.
Structured around and alternating between his work and his person, Amare also features exclusive footage of Ponti at his via Dezza studio, along with accounts of Ponti’s personal life from his children. A particularly enlightening talisman from Ponti himself well encapsulates his enduring allure even among young designers today. Quoting Picasso, the late veteran designer stated, “si l'on est jeune, on est jeune pour toujours”, roughly translating to “If we are young, we are forever young”. Beautifully extending that definition to the case of one of his greatest creations, the Pirelli skyscraper, finding curious inspiration for its plan in an airplane wing, Ponti, around midway through the documentary, attempts to elucidate Pirelli’s timelessness. “Simplicity is a virtue that cannot be bettered,” he states, adding that the Pirelli skyscraper was indeed born young.
Interestingly, while Ponti’s previous statement delves on the simplicity of his structures, Ponti is also widely known as embodying the spirit of the Renaissance movement, owing to which he even received significant resistance from the then developing Modernist movement. Even when his structures assumed strictly linear forms, the embellishments leaned towards classical motifs and ideals; even while his products and furniture design may have occasionally assumed fluid forms and superfluous hues, their elevated functionality was bound to stand out even decades hence, a fine showcase of which is the Gio Ponti Heritage Collection by Molteni&C. It is perhaps operating at these precipices of styles, principles, and schools of thought that he birthed a new one. As Enzo Mari succinctly stated of Ponti and post war Milan in the 40s in the documentary: “he kick-started development, and brought a fine sense of refinement in design to Domus”.
A number of Ponti buildings today define the Milanese skyline, and a number of his products today make homes across the world full. However, Ponti’s 130-year-old legacy both supersedes and precedes that. Be it the signature obelisk in his buildings “piercing the sky”, or his famous ‘suspended facades’ that he used to great effect in his villa designs in Caracas, Ponti manifested his keenness to develop his own unique language in concrete terms. Ironically, Ponti may never have been seen as an academician himself, but the scores of admirers and aspirational designers who have picked up on his style and swear by his then rudimentary industrial aesthetic, starting from his very first students in Ettore sottsass and Vittoriano Vigano who in turn inspired scores, Ponti’s legacy is the people.
The documentary Amare Gio Ponti started streaming on November 18, the day of Ponti’s 130th birth anniversary, and is available to watch on Molteni Group’s official website until November 21, 2021.