Birchwood Easy Chair by Gio Ponti for Cassina, 1958 For Sale
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Birchwood Easy Chair by Gio Ponti for Cassina, 1958


Birchwood Easychair designed by Gio Ponti (Cassina, Milano) for Hotel Parco dei Principe, Sorrento, 1958, Italy. This chair has the original vinyl upholstery. Gio Ponti (1891-1979) Italy Gio Ponti was born in 1891 in Milan where he spent his childhood and enrolled for an architecture degree at the Politecnico. In 1921 he graduated having intrupted his studies during World War One. In 1923, instead of practising as an architect, Ponti became the Artistic Director of Richard-Ginori, the ceramics manufacturer for which he won the `Grand Prix` at the 1925 Paris Expo. From 1923 to 1930, he turned the company into a role model of industrial design excellence by decorating simple ceramic forms with elegant neo-classical motifs. `Industry is the style of the 20th century, its mode of creation,` are Ponti`s words. 1928 Ponti founded `Domus`, which he establishes as Europe`s most influential architecture and design magazine. in 1941 Ponti quit `Domus` to found `Stile`, an Italian art and architecture magazine. In 1947 Ponti left `Stile` to resume the editorship of `Domus`. Ponti insisted that decoration and modern ideas were not incompatible. His ideas about blending the old and the new did have supporters - among them the fascists of the 1930s. Mussolini and his ministers were enthusiastic about all things new, especially if they preserved cultural identity, and Ponti`s writings on the "Italianness" of his homes Publication of `Amate L`Architettura`, a new version of a book of essays which orginated in Ponti`s 1940 pamphlet, `Architecture is a crystal`. In 1933 Ponti organised the 5th Triennale exhibition (originally in Monza) in Milan and his work extended to stage sets and costumes for the opera house `La Scala` in Milan. Ponti was actively involved in the Industrial Design Association (ADI) and was one of the organizers of the Golden Compass promoted by the La Rinascente department store. fFom 1936 to 1961 he was Professor on the permanent staff of the Faculty of Architecture at the Milan Polytechnic. In 1934 he received the title of Commander of the Royal Vasa order in Stockholm being the art prize of the Accademia d`Italia. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London, Ponti dis-regarded conventional boundaries and explored a profound analogy between different fields of art and design, ranging from the minor arts and furniture to overarching architectural schemes. In 1946 he started a three year project to design Murano glassware for Venini. 1948 he unveiled the La Pavoni coffee machine. In the same year he began a four year commission to restore four Italian cruise liners with Nino Zoncada. Ponti`s naval furnishings are particularly interesting (Conte Grande, Andrea Doria, Giulio Cesare) During the 1950`s his work became even more innovative, examples include the so-called `typical solutions`, the `organized walls`, the `furnished windows`, the `instrumental head board`,and the `miniambiental lodging` In 1953 he launched the series `P` sanitaryware for Ideal Standard and the angular `Distex` armchair for Cassina. 1957 saw the design of the SuperLeggera chair for Cassina, a lighter version of 1955`s leggera chair (inspired by the traditional Chiavari chairs) . In the 1950`s he collaborated with Fornasetti (the Italian decorator renowned for his surreal, neo-classical style) on interiors and furniture design. Ponti also collaborated with Fornacetti on the interiors of the Casino at San Remo which they decorated with enormous playing card motifs. Another collaboration with For was the Nancetti - Vembi-Burroughs offices in Genoa and Turin, where they emblazoned the furniture with intricate images of pens, pencils, sheets of paper and early computers - Ponti and Arcihitecture In 1926 he designed his first house on via Randaccio in Milan. 1934 he completed work on the Mathematics Department at Rome University and in 1936 the construction of the first Monte Catini headquarters in Milan. Italy was by now rebuilding itself after the war, nowhere more so than in the bombed out cities of the North, Genoa, Turin and Milan. 1955 saw the completion of Villa Planchart, or the `Butterfly House`in Caracas, Venezuela. 1956 saw the construction of the Pirelli Tower in Milan. In 1958 he designed the Alitalia offices in New York. Ponti remained productive throughout the 1960s and 1970s - In 1960 Ponti built Villa Nemazee in Tehran in the same `joie de vivre` style as the two houses in Caracas, Villa Planchart and Villa Arreaza. in 1964 Ponti designes the interior of Hotel Parco dei Principe in Rome and its (recently restored) sister hotel in Sorrento. In 1964 Ponti designed San Francesco church and 1967 San Carlo chapel. In Milan, in 1970, the construction of Taranto Cathedral and in 1972 the Denver Art Museum. Ponti died in 1979 in Milan.


  • Materials and Techniques
  • Condition
  • Condition Details
    The vinyl covering is the original and has marks consistent with the vintage. We have several chairs available all in similar condition. Please enquire for multiples
  • Wear
    Wear consistent with age and use.
  • Dimensions
    H 40.75 in. x W 27.76 in. x D 29.93 in.H 103.5 cm x W 70.5 cm x D 76 cm
  • Seat Height
    14.97 in. (38 cm)
  • Seller Location
    London, GB
  • Seller Reference Number
  • Reference Number
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About Gio Ponti (Designer)

An architect, furniture and industrial designer and editor, Gio Ponti was arguably the most influential figure in 20th-century Italian Modernism. Ponti designed thousands of furnishings and products — from cabinets, lamps and chairs to ceramics and coffeemakers — and his buildings, including the brawny Pirelli Tower (1956) in his native Milan, and the castle-like Denver Art Museum (1971), were erected in 14 countries. Through Domus, the magazine he founded in 1928, Ponti brought attention to virtually every significant movement and creator in the spheres of modern art and design.

     The questing intelligence Ponti brought to Domus is reflected in his work: as protean as he was prolific, Ponti’s style can’t be pegged to a specific genre. In the 1920s, as artistic director for the Tuscan porcelain maker Richard Ginori, he fused old and new; his ceramic forms were modern, but decorated with motifs from Roman antiquity. In pre-war Italy, modernist design was encouraged, and after the conflict, Ponti — along with designers such as Carlo Mollino, Franco Albini, Marco Zanuso — found a receptive audience for their novel, idiosyncratic work. Ponti’s typical furniture forms from the period, such as the wedge-shaped “Distex” chair, are simple, gently angular, and colorful; equally elegant and functional. In the 1960s and ’70s, Ponti’s style evolved again as he explored biomorphic shapes, and embraced the expressive, experimental designs of Ettore Sottsass Jr., Joe Columbo and others.

     His signature furniture piece — the one by which he is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Germany’s Vitra Design Museum and elsewhere — is the sleek “Superleggera” chair, produced by Cassina starting in 1957. (The name translates as “superlightweight” — advertisements featured a model lifting it with one finger.) Ponti had a playful side, best shown in a collaboration he began in the late 1940s with the graphic artist Piero Fornasetti. Ponti furnishings were decorated with bright finishes and Fornasetti's whimsical lithographic transfer prints of things such as butterflies, birds or flowers; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts possesses a 1950 secretary from their “Architetturra” series, which feature case pieces covered in images of building interiors and facades. The grandest project Ponti and Fornasetti undertook, however, lies on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean: the interiors of the luxury liner Andrea Doria, which sank in 1956.

     Widely praised retrospectives at the Queens Museum of Art in 2001 and at the Design Museum London in 2002 sparked a renewed interest in Ponti among modern design aficionados. (Marco Romanelli’s monograph written for the London show, offers a fine overview of Ponti’s work.) Today, a wide array of Ponti’s designs are snapped up by savvy collectors who want to give their homes a touch of Italian panache and effortless chic.

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Located in London, GB
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