Project Info

Superleggera chair by Gio Ponti

Superleggera (Super-Lightweight) Chair by Gio Ponti (1891-1979)

Gio Ponti was one of the most important Italian architects, designers, artists, and publishers of the twentieth century. His Superleggera chair, constructed from light yets strong ash and weighing only 3.75 lbs, represented a breakthrough in chair design and construction in that it was very strong for its weight and slight build. Indeed like the chairs pictured here from the 60’s, which I restored several years ago, all Superleggeras were built to stand the test of time. When I first saw them I was surprised to learn how old they were considering their extremely modern almost minimalist appearance. When I picked one up it had a surprisingly light feel. Folklore has it that to put his creation to the test, Ponti threw one of these chairs from a fourth story apartment building window to the street below, where it bounced like a ball without breaking. Originally priced at about $18.00, today’s vintage survivors are worth over $1000.00 each so I would not be recreating Ponti’s quality control methods anytime soon.

The owners of these lucked upon them at a Pasadena flea market and paid about $100 each. Having used them for a number of years, the seats had succumbed to the rigors of raising small children. After discussing restoration options with the chairs owners and their desire to have something more life proof, I came up with a simulated hand weave involving a herringbone pattern of sheet cane glued to a custom fit substrate panel nestled within the hand wrapped rails and stiles of the seat frame. The idea being they would have the delicate look of the original hand woven seats but be able to hold up to the rigors of child rearing and even the occasional jumper. It turned out to be more time consuming than anticipated as each seat was geometrically slightly askew of each other which called for much custom fitting. Of course I completely refinished them in multiple coats of satin black lacquer. Check out the attached series of pictures to get an idea how I created the new caned seats.

www.4citizencane.com

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Huntington Beach, Ca
California
Orange
Click images below to make larger.
Ad from the 50's depicting how truly light these chairs were/are...
Close up before and after...
Side by side full chair comparison...
Cutting the substrate from 1/8" hardwood ply...
I've pre-wrapped the rails and stiles (stretchers) with cane...
Fitting the substrate within the stretchers...
Gluing the sheet cane onto the substrate (top view)
Gluing the sheet cane onto the substrate (bottom view)
You can never have too many clamps...
Completed seat but without finish coat applied...
All five finished and ready for the next 50 years...

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