What an object!

A vase - the bulbous shape as classic as a flatbread - the glaze of which shows a cassette construction: In each cassette there is a differently shaped vase.

And what a presumption: the vase quotes the dome of the Pantheon, completed in 128 AD under Hadrian and to this day one of the most modern and proudest buildings in the world.

Even the space parliament in "Star Wars" is modeled on him.

Here it becomes a decorative gesture.

But not only.

The Italian architect Gio Ponti designed this vase in 1925 when he immediately after his studies at the

Politecnico di Milano

had become the artistic director of the traditional porcelain company Ginori.

At that time, the cultural revolution in architecture was in full swing: pioneers such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe oriented themselves towards the Cubist architecture of North Africa and the well-thought-out minimalism of Japan.

But Gio Ponti did not see himself as an iconoclast.

Throughout his life he sought continuity in Italian cultural history (this helped him during fascism) - and yet he became a pioneer and minister of propaganda for modernism.

The many small vases on the vase indicate that design is a game of possibilities and set pieces.

This realization didn't spread until two generations later with postmodern architecture.

It was just a finger exercise, but also the early work of a visionary.

Which is all the more astonishing: Until his death in 1979, Gio Ponti published only one book about his work.

Funny, because the man was neither overly modest nor publicly shy.

But as the editor of the magazines “Domus” and “Stile”, he was able to provide the world with updates on his work in real time.

Now a book is finally coming out that does justice to the multifaceted and, if one may say so, brightly colored life of Gio Ponti.

Lavishly illustrated, meticulously explained, testimony to a creative nature.

The work was mainly carried out with original photos (as well as drawings, magazine covers, etc.).

So the pictures offer patina and at times comedy.

The opulent and sophisticated furnishings for cruise ships and ocean liners, for example, for which Gio Ponti was responsible, tell of a long-forgotten culture of travel.

The metal hands are reminiscent of molds for rubber gloves, which Ponti developed with Lino Sabattini

Source: © Gio Ponti Archives / Salvatore Licitra


“For Ponti, these ships were showcases for creativity and technical excellence from Italy.

After the war, the country had to reposition itself internationally, ”says Karl Kolbitz, a creative director living in Berlin and editor of the book“ Gio Ponti ”.

He worked for the artist Wolfgang Tilmans for a while, now and again as a model, and is now a designer and consultant for international fashion and design companies.

His book “The Entrances of Milan” was published in 2017 and was praised worldwide because it focused attention on an often neglected architectural detail - and because it was

conceived, photographed and written

with an

unusual care

for a

coffee table book


Basically, Kolbitz invented a new genre: the splendid illustrated book for people who read.

“He had this friendly, curious, joking, 'pontaneous' manner. And it is unavoidable.

A cultural catalyst for Italian architecture and design worldwide, ”enthuses Kolbitz.

While working on "Entrances ..." he met Salvatore Licitra, the master's grandson and head of the Gio Ponti archive in Milan.

He suggested the book to him and acted as curator for the mammoth project (36 x 36 cm).

Here, the size is not just a muscle game: "Suddenly you can dive deep into the photos," says Kolbitz: "From the architecture and the interior to the door handles or the plates on the table."

And even the smaller pictures are full of surprises: Gio Ponti built a villa near Tehran for the Iranian minister Shafi Nemazee from 1957 to 1964.

He perforated a huge, internal wall facing an inner courtyard with irregular openings and decorated it with clay reliefs by the artist Fausto Melotti.

The effect is as amazing and shocking three-dimensional as the ceiling of the baroque church Il Gesù in Rome.

“It was important to me that we use photos that Gio Ponti had seen himself,” says Kolbitz, describing his way of working.

The man has left behind some works that have been photographed infinitely often, so it is important to show them how he wanted to see them: the hotel “Parco dei Principi” near Sorrento bathing in his love for the color of the sea, the wooden Superleggera chair, is still there today Milestone of the slimming craze for furniture, and the Pirelli Tower in Milan, a high-rise building that is only 120 meters high, which nevertheless towers over the neighboring houses like a ship's bow.

Whereby the architect quarreled with the pajama strips of the facade that were required for the construction.

The vase from 1925 for the porcelain company Ginori cites the dome construction of the Pantheon in Rome and anticipates postmodernism.

There is a different shape in each cassette

Source: © Gio Ponti Archives / Salvatore Licitra


“I've been traveling to Milan for work since I was 17.

And the Pirelli tower was just always there.

Such an elegant building that towered over all of us, ”says Kolbitz with great respect.

“Gio Ponti was obsessed with the subject of lightness.

The pillars of the house become slimmer and slimmer towards the top. ”For him, the all-rounder is the prototype of the modern creative:“ He did everything: from glass painting to poetry to designing a supermarket.

He was just fearless. "

So it is only consistent that no appetizing picture of one of his star buildings adorns the cover.

But an abstract, yellow-black-white pattern, somewhere between camouflage, Florentine book paper and Clyfford style.

It is the rubber floor "Giallo fantastico" (magnificent yellow) that Ponti used in the Pirelli tower.

“This floor went relatively unnoticed, which has always surprised me,” says Kolbitz.

Ponti used it in a wide variety of projects, and the manufacturing process ensures that the pattern never repeats itself.

Even if you don't let the name dazzle you: The floor still looks so easy and free, industrial and handmade, that you want to cover your own home office with it right away.

Nine copies of the book would be enough for a good square meter.

Source: Bags

“Gio Ponti”, by Karl Kolbitz, Salvatore Licitra, and others, numbered first edition: 200 euros.

Via taschen.com