Superleggera, No. 699

Gio (Giovanni) Ponti

Design: 1951 - 7
Production: 1957 to the present
Manufacturer: Figli di Amedeo Cassina,
Meda, near Milan
Size: 82.5 x 40 x 44.5; seat height 45.5 cms
Material: varnished ash wood, Spanish cane

Ponti himself describes this chair as the “normal,” “true” chair, the “chair-chair devoid of adjectives.”1 With it, the architect pursued his own standard of keeping things to a bare minimum. At the same time, Ponti’s interest in classic forms finds expression in the chair, just as it does in his buildings. Ponti borrowed the concept for “Superleggera” (super-lightweight) from a series of simple, traditional chairs that have been produced since the nineteenth century in a plant near the Ligurian fishing village of Chiavari. Their stable, lightweight construction and low price made them extremely popular. Ponti was inspired to optimize the qualities of this model during the postwar era, when furnishings were out of necessity frugal. In his first drawings from 1949, he altered the basic form of the Chiavari chair with an ergonomic bend in the backrest and tapered the legs toward the bottom. He then designed the “Leggera” for Cassina in 1951, which reduced the structure of the Chiavari chair to only what was absolutely necessary. It was very similar to the “Superleggera,” but with rods for legs and struts in the backrest. Although the model met with great success among consumers, Ponti strove for even greater perfection and designed the “Superleggera” for Cassina in 1957, using light, stable ash wood and a seat that was either upholstered or covered with a weave of cane or colored cellophane. Ponti reduced the round cuts of wood to a triangular cross section with edges only 18 mm long, and devised an ingenious system of slot-in connectors in which the individual struts are inserted firmly inside one another: the result is a stable chair weighing a mere 1.7 kilo. To put these to the test, Ponti threw the chair from the fourth story of an apartment building into the street, where it bounced like a ball without breaking. MS

[1] Gio Ponti, “Senza aggetivi,” Domus 268 (Milan, March 1952), 1.

Gio (Giovanni) Ponti

Ponti Superleggera No. 699