Throughout his career, Gio Ponti endeavored to produce a fusion of functionality and practicality with visually pleasing designs. While this idea persisted as a common inspiration in all areas of his work, it is particularly noticeable in the chairs he designed and produced during the 1950s.
Although his chairs eventually contributed, in no small way, to his international fame, some of Ponti’s designs began as a personal project. For example, his famous 1957 Via Dezza chair was self-designed as part of a furniture collection for his own home in Milan. The home, of course, was built by Ponti, and he subsequently filled it with furniture designed to fit his own taste and functional requirements. The Via Dezza chair is such a memorable and popular design that it is currently being produced by Molteni&C, an Italian furniture manufacturer. The current reissue is so authentically Ponti, that it is even upholstered in a choice of two different velvet fabrics which were also his creations.
A true visionary, Gio Ponti never left any detail of a project untouched by his own hand. In the case of his chairs, sometimes his designs actually grew out of a larger architectural project. Such was the case when he built the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Rome. Ponti did not simply design a shell of a building and move along to other projects; the hotel was also furnished with pieces of his own design such as dining chairs and settees. This devotion to every detail of his work resulted in completed projects which exhibited unparalleled consistency of style. It’s easy to imagine guests at the Parco dei Principi immersing themselves in this environment, where form flowed seamlessly into function.
Ponti’s 1957 Superleggera chair is one of the best examples of his attempt to blend style with functionality. The appropriately-named superleggera, which translates to “super light”, was depicted in promotional photographs showing a young boy lifting the chair with a single finger. Though inspired by the traditional Chiavari chairs Ponti admired, the chair was designed to be both incredibly light yet sturdy. This particular piece showcases Ponti’s ability to fuse his sense of aesthetics with practical, easily mass-produced items of furniture. His 1953 Distex chair is another example of beautiful, sleek and minimalist form merged with function. Ponti obviously believed that a chair could be a work of art, while still performing its primary function as a chair.