The Tiles of Parco dei Principi - The Italian Hotel Designed by Gio Ponti
It’s often difficult to write about somewhere you’ve never been. But after a day of studying its images, I feel as if I’ve spent a week at Parco dei Principi, the hotel that Gio Ponti designed in Sorrento, Italy. The hotel is so well documented, not only because of Gio Ponti’s reputation, its architecture and its interior decoration, but mainly because of its whole inspiring aesthetic. The ceramic patterns on the hotel’s floors are what have drawn me in, having browsed hundreds of images of the Italian building. The tiles are certainly its most beautiful element.
Gio Ponti is one of Italy’s most credible designers from the twentieth century, having successfully tried his hand at a plethora of different crafts – architecture, furniture design, household products and ceramics are just a few of the trades in to which he delved.
Gio Ponti began designing the hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento in the first few months of the 1960s. Having designed almost every aspect of the building himself, including the furniture, interior decoration and its structure, Ponti opened the hotel in 1964. It had been commissioned by Roberto Fernandes, who belonged to a very wealthy Neapolitan hotel dynasty.
Everything has been considered – Gio Ponti was clearly not just an architect, but a man who considered every aspect of design to be an interesting task. The square lights in the hallway are set at an angle and made to look like a diamond, offsetting the shapes in the floor tiles.
Almost everything at Parco dei Principi is blue and white: everything from the blue light bulbs in the lounge bar; to the hotel’s blue and white facade, which is revealed as you drive up towards the 19th century English gothic castle on which the hotel is built. It is a showcase of Gio Ponti’s design credibility, which still houses some of his iconic design pieces like the Superleggera chair.
For the floors, Ponti and his friend, the ceramicist Fausto Melotti, designed 20-30 different blue and white patterns, created with just one size of tile made from majolica, a type of glazed, earthenware pottery. Each room’s floor has its own combination of carefully arranged tiles, ranging from half-moons, triangles laid to look like stars and various other abstract designs. The recurring patterns stretch across the rooms and are breathtaking – their rhythms resound around the building and are continually complemented by the blue and white furniture and wall designs. The tiles are all hand-painted, giving them an artisanal feel rather than appearing as a flat, solid design laid onto the floor. The tiles were manufactured in D’Agostino, a factory in Salerno, implying Ponti’s desire to restrict production to local craftsmen. A different chromatic effect is given by the walls in the lobby, where thousands of glazed blue and white ceramic pebbles are set into and protruding out of the walls and reception desk.
The blue and white theme could be representative of the sea and the sky, the elements which magnificently surround Parco dei Principi and create a staggering backdrop for the iconic building and its tropical gardens. Blue and white is the perfect chromatic combination for the reflection of Mediterranean light which bounces around the building throughout the year. Colour, pattern and rhythm flow through the building which, to me, seems to be the most likely reason behind Ponti’s chromatic decision. The Humanist culture of the Italian Renaissance was to do with living and experience. Indeed Ponti wanted to use good design as a means to enjoy life and our experiences – the tiles of Parco dei Principi are a celebration of this.
The Italian modern movement can sometimes be overlooked in terms of design, but this building, and particularly its interior decoration, reminds us of its beauty and prominence. Beauty and functionality was an important combination for Italian designers from this time. Parco dei Principi is now a listed building, which means that Gio Ponti’s design legacies here will remain intact, providing us all with the opportunity to go and visit this curiously beautiful building.
Images courtesy of Royal Group Hotels and Resorts.
Have a look at our Pinterest board ‘Recurring Patterns’ for more inspiring geometric designs.