The Resurrection of a Classic ‘60s Tile Design

January 2012

A roundup of the latest materials for horizontal and vertical surfaces, including a mid-century Modern tile design that has finally been put into production.

By Rita Catinella Orrell

For the Milan Triennale in 1960, Italian architects Gio Ponti and Alberto Rosselli designed the “4 times curved” ceramic wall tile, a Moorish shape with four curves made in various colors for the Modena, Italy-based Marazzi Group. Due to technical difficulties in producing the complex, puzzle-like form at the time, it never entered the companyís line. Five decades later, with the help of state-of-the-art water-jet cutting technology, Marazzi has interpreted Ponti and Rosselliís original design with Progetto Triennale, a collection of porcelain stoneware, ceramic, and crystallized stoneware for both horizontal and vertical surfaces.

Photo © G. Ponti archives/S. Licitra, Milan
Gio Ponti, shown in Caracas, Venezuela, during the construction of Villa Planchart in 1954.

View a slideshow of the latest hard surfacing product types.

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“Ponti and Rosselli wanted to study an untraditional and completely new design for tiles,” says Dr. Maurizio Piglione, CEO of Marazzi Group. “The original design of Triennale was inspired by the curve shape that in those years was a very interesting theme.” The new line comes in 13 colors and four sizes (24" x 37", 12" x 18", 4" x 6", and 6" x 9"); special trims are also available to complete the puzzle design.

Called the “Father of Modern Italian Design” for his decades of work in industrial design, architecture, and in journalism as the founder of Domus, Ponti first worked with ceramics early in his career when he developed intricate craft pieces decorated with Neoclassical detail for Richard Ginori, a ceramics manufacturer near Florence. “Like Pontiís exuberant early decorative ceramics—often at odds with the orthodox ideas of any given decade—he created this Triennale system as a hands-on, innovative kit of ceramic forms,” says Jane Thompson, a principal with Bostonís Thompson Design Group who met Ponti during a design jury in Italy in the early 1960s when she was editor of I.D. magazine.

However, Pontiís product-design work extended far beyond ceramics. “Ponti is famous for the richness and variety of his work,” says Salvatore Licitra, Pontiís grandson and curator of the Milan-based Gio Ponti Archives. “Even today, many of his pieces are in production,” he says, naming designs like the Superleggera chair by Cassina, lamps by Fontana Arte and Venini, textiles by Maharam, and silverware and cutlery by Christofle.

Introduced in Europe last October, Progetto Triennale is planned to launch in the U.S. later this year. It may have taken over 50 years to arrive, but for fans of Mid-Century modern Italian design, this is one tile that was worth the wait. American Marazzi Tile, Sunnyvale, Texas.

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