Letters to Daria Guarnati
Giò Ponti

Ink on paper

The Milanese architect Gio Ponti typically arrived at his office very early in the morning and would use the quiet interlude before his colleagues appeared to write a succession of letters – to friends and associates, to clients and contractors, to his associate editors at Domus or Stile, to his fellow architects Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Josep Antoni Coderch, and to any number of other important people, not least the Italian president, the Pope, even the Queen of England. An Italian archive of his correspondence, both sent and received, contains more than 99,000 letters exchanged with over 6,400 recipients.

As much as these charm us, there is also an undeniable aesthetic in these letters – a joy that comes not form the words but from the beauty of the sinuous, looping line. For this line follows, traces, creates or transforms, giving the rhythm of a poem to every word it spells out, lending it new meaning and making it even more beautiful. With the line, Ponti turned the most banal of letters into an elegy.

Yet is there also perhaps something more shaded an uncertain here, as though Ponti’s real voice could only find itself through equivocation? Something in those impeccably wrought lines that then tail off into banal words; in the forms of delicious intimacies that then never move beyond their promise? It is as if Ponti – that playful chameleon of Italian design – had danced long enough between textiles and concrete, between elegiac history and modernist rupture, between the editorial authority of Domus and the mystical opacity of In Praise of Architecture; even between form and word. Could it be that the very ambiguity of Ponti’s lapidary form encapsulates an uncertainty about which all of the different selves, and all the possible Italys, he should be really be addressing? — Niall Hobhouse, Drawing Matter

(Photo: Drawing Matter)