A few months ago we received a mail from a young architect, Eugenio Squassabia.
We were very surprised to hear that they were searching for a furnishing company to produce some pieces of furniture for the German Pavillon at the next Biennale di Architettura, directed by Rem Koolhas , in Venice.
Here we are! We answered.
In January they came and visited us at our workshop, here in Mantua.
They told us about their idea; they showed us the drawings and pictures of the wooden models.
We liked the project so much!
We talked about architecture. What a wonderful afﬁnity between us! We both recognize in Adolf Loos one of our favorite masters of the Modern Movement and we both love his concept of “raumplan” and use it in our projects…
This can be a perfect demonstration of David Chipperﬁeld‘s theme at the last biennale,
“Common Ground”. If there is a common background behind a little Italian architectural ﬁrm like ours and the German ﬁrm who won the contest for the next Biennale’s German pavilion, David Chipperﬁled was perfectly right!
We just saw, at the opening, the results of the Rem Koolhas’ biennale, and the German pavillion has been judged by the Guardian one of top 10 best of this edition.
We are so proud to have cooperated with Savas, Alex and Eugenio for this project!
We’ve never felt so proud for a work done.
Our client appreciated it so much that they mentioned ermesponti even during the public speech: incredible!
I mean, never ever a client have given to us such a recognition. Even for bigger assignments.
But we really appreciate working and cooperate with these guys.
We found strong affinities since our first meeting.
I have a doubt; are we of Ermesponti Germans? Or are that is Ciriacidis& Leherner Italians?
We just have the same deep roots in the cultural heritage of the western architecture history, that’s all.
We found we both have this in common: we love doing our work at the best!
We care for it. In everything we do, we search for perfection.
And I believe you can feel it very well.
If you will go in Venice in the following months, please have a look at the German Pavilion.
For what I am concerned, there is a special feature that makes it different from each other national pavilion of the 14th Architectural Biennale in Venice.
All the national pavilions are – of course- about architecture, but they just talk about it.
The German Pavilion is architecture for real!
Two buildings in one; each one brings to its own identity and style to compare with the other.
And what a strong impression for visitors of that hybrid spaces; no need of taglines here!
No need of critical explanations; anyone can understand it by himself.
To be honest, I think this is the real reason why we literally felt in love for this project.
We believe that architecture means experiencing interior space; from the feeling of the main space to the last small detail.
Please go and visit the Bungalow Germania in Venice. We wait for your impressions about it!
We start today an open conversation with Mr. Ermes Ponti, the man whose name is also the company name.
His presence is always discreet, but nevertheless clearly perceived, more through actions than words, especially towards the young people in our company.
For whoever works in the manufacturing industry, as we do, the generations who opened the way to our crafting activities are a constant reminder of technical abilities and approach to entrepreneurship, elements of our everyday life.
But now let’s hear from Mr. Ermes Ponti.
– Mr. Ermes, how did the company begin its activity?
Ermes Ponti –
– It all started on the banks of the Po river, in a small town right outside Mantua, San Giacomo Po.
At the end of the ’30s, my father bought the first machines to start a carpenter shop; the story goes that he rode his bicycle to Milan, and when the trucks with the machinery arrived in our village everyone came out of their homes, thinking the new bells for the church had arrived!
– How did the carpenter shop grow, later on?
Ermes Ponti – A few years after the end of the war , the shop moved to San Biagio, where we are now, inside an old power powerhouse. We were an industrial company at that point, many people knew us for the modern furniture we would propose, something none around here did at the time.
In 1957 we have been the first ones in Italy to be able to put polyester paint on furniture, getting the idea from a car hood someone showed us.
On April 12th – I still remember the exact date – we showed it at the Milan Fair, and it was a huge success. For many years after that we developed projects derived from the new polyester paint, which is still in use, by the way.
When the ’60s came by, it came my time to join the family company.
We decided to call a great architect, someone who could design new collections for us. I sat down with my wife Gabriella – to whom the Gabriella chair is dedicated – and wrote a letter to Mr. Gio Ponti, with whom we started immediately a long collaboration.
Mr. Gio Ponti designed for us a brand new furniture collection, based on an innovative home concept: the Apta series.
Unforgettable times: Gio Ponti has been for me a true role model.
– When did the company the company headquarters took the actual shape?
Ermes Ponti – It was in the ’70s, when we broadened the premises and built the actual laboratory; in that period we got important assignments, mostly very big hotels and private villas.
– With which important brands did you get involved?
Ermes Ponti – We worked with many, crafting high quality pieces designed by the most famous architects, one name for all: Driade.
– Does this mean you specialized in design?
Not really, we specialized in… well done jobs.
Later on – mid ‘ 90s – we got in touch with the fashion industry, with the MonteNapoleone Corneliani boutique, in Milan.
After my son Paolo and his wife Daniela, both graduated in Architecture in Florence, joined the company, Corneliani offered us the chance to work on the first projects of integrated design; initially a small showroom in Paris, then a boutique in Russia, and so on… until they decided to rely on us for the entire London New Bond Street project, and Milan Montenapoleone project.
To this date we have realized over 50 Corneliani shops all over the world.
– In the recent years, which have been the main projects?
In the last ten years we have worked mainly with fashion industry, designing and building great flagship stores, both mono-brand and multi-brand, worldwide.
The whole process – from the very first idea to the turnkey realization – is managed by us, and guarantees the client a constant reduction of resources employed, optimizing the whole project in terms of:
- architectural aesthetics
- handicraft furniture quality (drawings, samples etc.)
Thanks to this new integrated method of design and building, we have acquired important assignments in luxury retail and top brand yachting.
– The yachting industry: everybody says that it has been hit badly by the economic crisis…
Ermes Ponti – It’s true, but – as strange as it may seem – the hard times have pushed many people towards our company.
When we approached this industry, a few years ago, the crisis was already at its worst… but our method helped reduce consistently the resources needed to complete a project.
For instance, we have been able to cut by 50% the delivery schedule of a 94-feet boat, by reinterpreting the drawings and optimizing the building times.
– Crisis as opportunity, then?
Ermes Ponti – The crisis has taught a lot to us.
It asked us to evolve, by diminuishing time and costs, and increase quality.
My son Paolo has been working in this direction for 10 years now, putting into practice many equally important elements: his architectural culture, his practical and organizational intelligence, the passion for his work, the commitment to his community, the daily sacrifice.
I think that these are the values of the “small” Italian companies, something that have made “great” the Made in Italy in the world.
Personally, I think that such values are still relevant, and maybe the economic crisis has helped us to re-discover them.
The architects in charge of the German Pavillion at the Venice Biennale talk about how they met our company and the way the collaboration between us evolved.
Thank you for your post, Alex and Savvas!
ERMES PONTI: A CAREFUL AND INSPIRING COLLABORATION ON THE VENICE BIENNALE GERMAN PAVILLION.
By Alex Lehnerer and Savvas Ciriacidis.
We were very fortunate to have been able to work with ermesponti on the project “Bungalow Germania” of the German Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Biennale 2014.
At first we were quite concerned about how to rebuild the Chancellor’s Bungalow in Bonn from 1964 here in Venice.
Then, only by chance we met Daniela and Paolo from ermesponti.
Our Italian friend and collaborator Eugenio Squassabia from Mantua recommended them to us as years ago he used to work for them.
We have already heard a lot about the exquisite craftsmanship of North Italian companies, but never really imagined what kind of enthusiasm and precision there is involved in their work since we met ermesponti.
Daniela and Paolo immediately went to Bonn themselves as they had to see the “original” and to have a close look at all the details of the wooden furniture of the Bungalow to be reproduced in Venice – all the way to the brass key holes of the cabinet doors, as shown in the drawing.
This analysis almost resembled an archeological project into Bonn’s recent past.
Paolo’s dad then went to Milan to get exactly the right kind of veneer for the built-in cabinets of the Bungalow in Bonn.
The result is stunning.
There was so much care and love involved that we almost feel guilty that after six months of the Biennale everything has to disappear again.
But before that you should go and see the exhibition yourself and how precise all the ermesponti furniture is crafted in the Pavilion.
We even started to tell people there: if they wanted to see how everything looks in 50 years, they should go to Bonn!
But maybe you should also go to Mantova and have a look at ermesponti’s workshop and listen to Paolo how carefully they choose and compose every piece of veneer by hand to get the right character of wood for every single project.
It is amazing and inspiring to still have people around today who care so much about what they do.