Gio Ponti. Loving architecture
November 27, 2019 – September 14, 2020
Architect, designer, art director, writer, poet and critic, Gio Ponti was an allround artist who traversed much of the 20th century, profoundly influencing the taste of his time, responding to its most significant demands and anticipating many of the themes of contemporary architecture. 40 years on from his passing, MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts, is devoting a major retrospective to this exceptional figure. The exhibition examines and presents his multi-faceted career, starting with an account of his architecture, a unique and original synthesis of tradition and modernity, history and progress, elite culture and quotidian existence.
For Giovanna Melandri, President of the Fondazione MAXXI, “Celebrating the greatness of Gio Ponti signifies immersing ourselves in a legacy that is peerless in terms of versatility, talent and application. Private buildings and public commissions, companies and places of study, objects of everyday use, office and naval furnishings, cathedrals and museums alternate within research that was never dogmatic or ideological, in which there was dialogue between classicism and modernity, the natural landscape and the urban horizon, the social vocation of space and the safeguarding of beauty.”
As Margherita Guccione, Director of MAXXI Architettura says, “Neither classical nor modern, the work of Gio Ponti was unique in the history of Italian 20th century architecture, a century the architect spanned almost in its entirety, ranging from the design of objects of everyday use to the invention of spatial configurations for the modern home and the creation of complex projects embedded within the urban context, maintaining architecture, setting and saving grace of our lives, as the fixed core of his research.
The exhibition is the fruit of painstaking research that has aimed to update our understanding of the figure of Ponti the architect, highlighting a number of the guiding issues underlying his long career and his extraordinary ability to foreshadow the spaces and concepts of contemporary architectural practice. His aspiration towards verticality and lightness through the dematerialization of facades, his conception of a green city in which nature returns to playing a key role in the agenda of planning and architecture, as well as designing flexible domestic spaces, capable of adapting to the demands of their users, are without doubt themes that, over half a century ago, anticipated with unique clarity the concerns of the present-day.
On display are archive materials, original models, photographs, books, magazines and design classics closely associated with his architectural projects and organized into eight sections evoking key concepts expressed by Ponti himself. The exhibition layout is immersive and spectacular, suggesting the master’s own idea of space: fluid, dynamic and colorful. In the museum lobby, visitors are welcomed by a powerful installation of monumental Alcantara banners, hanging the full height of Zaha Hadid’s spaces which reproduce the stylized facades of skyscrapers, evoking the skyline of an imaginary Pontian city.
Leaving the lifts that lead to the third floor, the reproduction of the giallo fantastic linoleum floor used for the ramp immediately transports visitors into the most famous of Pontian skyscrapers, the Pirelli tower in Milan. Before entering the Gallery, the photographic project by Thomas Demand recounts the exceptional vertical buildings conserved at the CSAC Archive and also on display in the exhibition. Within the Gallery, the section Towards the exact house traces the theme of the house that was central to Ponti’s research into defining a space conrguent with modern life: here we find the first typical Milanese Domus, the designs for the La Casa Adatta exhibited at Eurodomus in 1970 and, above all, the synthesis of much of the architect’s thinking over the years: his apartment in Via Dezza, Milan.
The exposition is enriched by a kind of exhibition within the exhibition thanks to a photographic commissioning project conceived and curated by Paolo Rosselli who, together with the other seven auteurs he has selected, has given rise for a series of contemporary views of Pontian works, illustrating their present day existence. Delfino Sisto Legnani looked at the Con-cattedrale in Taranto; Allegra Martin the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento; Giovanni Chiaramonte Villa Planchart in Caracas; Filippo Romano the Grande magazzine de Bijenkorf in Eindhoven; Giovanna Silva Il Liviano (the faculty of letters) and Palazzo del Bo (rectorate), University of Padua; Michele Nastasi the first and second Palazzo Montecatini in Milan; Stefano Graziani the School of Mathematics in Rome; Paolo Rosselli the Pirelli tower in Milan.