4 March 2016
It was 1957 when this “pocket work of architecture,” written and shaped in every visual and typographic detail by Gio Ponti, was brought out by Vitali and Ghianda. The Genoese publishing house had asked the then sixty-five-year-old architect to write something to pick up where L’architettura è un cristallo, published in 1945, had left off. These were the early years of the economic boom and it was felt that there was an urgent need to put a program of renewal into effect and in his field Ponti was the right man to do it. Profoundly moved by a modern spirit embodied in the aesthetics of lightness, the architect and designer was also a great communicator, a gift indispensable to spreading his enthusiasm for the new and infecting a broad swathe of the public with it. The price of Amate l’architettura was kept low and the print run extended to 3000 copies, a lot for a book on the subject. The volume was a success, and was translated into English (under the title In Praise of Architecture) and Japanese, but was handicapped later by the circuits of distribution, which prevented it for decades from going into a second edition. Nor was the reprint of 2004 by the CUSL (Cooperativa Universitaria Studi e Lavoro) able to get it the right exposure. All factors that make even more interesting the operation carried out by Rizzoli with this new version, respectful of the original and expanded to include an appendix that documents the gestation of the book (letters, sketches and drawings from the archives). At a distance of almost sixty years it is at last possible to savor again this synthesis of Ponti’s thinking, studded with aphorisms and anecdotes and organized into chapters with titles that are engaging even for non-specialist readers. The book “is a collection of ideas,” and “has been made in the way one paints: in stages, with retouches, in details,” writes the author in the preface. Amate l’architettura is an autobiography that turns around concepts like time, color, art, aesthetics and materials, but it is also an illustrated diary embellished with the use of paper of different colors and weights that make it even more pleasing to the touch. After all, Ponti was a man of many talents and it is no surprise that the volume is also a splendid piece of design.