Sometimes, architects design things that aren’t buildings. In fact, things that are mobile. Things such as cars.
Take, for example, Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion. Le Corbusier’s Voiture Minimum. Or Ziha Hadid’s Z-Car.
Or Gio Ponti’s “Linea Diamante” (Diamond Line), a car deemed too radical for its time — 1953 — but a car with features that “would prove fundamental to future cars,” note the organizers of the inaugural Grand Basel, where Ponti’s design finally moved into 3 dimensions with the unveiling of the car based on Ponti’s sketches.
Ponti, who lived from 1891 to 1979, was responsible for buildings that include the 32-story Pirelli Tower in Milan and also for the Superleggera chair “which embodied lightness in both aesthetic and physical terms.” He also co-founded Domus, an architecture and design magazine celebrating its 90th anniversary.
In 1953, we’re told, Ponti and colleague Alberto Rosselli designed an aerodynamic teardrop-shaped car that morphed some angles, thus the Diamond Line name.
“Ponti saw his new design as a necessary reaction to the staid automobile styling of the time, which was characterized by large, swollen shapes with small windows and dark interiors,” the Grand Basel news release explained.
“By comparison, his vision was a more architectural car with flat-form body panels and windows, and a substantial glass area that would flood the cabin with light.
“The clever packaging would enhance the utilitarian aspect of the car, enabling a generously proportioned cabin and a spacious boot.”
Another innovation, developed with tire-maker Pirelli, was a rubber bumper around the circumference of the car. The front and rear included spring-mounted “buffers” as safety devices in a collision.
The original design was based on the chassis of an Alfa Romeo 1900 sedan, though neither Fiat nor Carrozzeria Touring would cooperate, and the design didn’t go beyond 1:10 scale models.
Until now, when a full-scale mockup will be unveiled at Grand Basel, held September 6-8. The car was done by FCA Heritage, Fiat Chrysler’s vintage vehicle workshop.
“Grand Basel is not just another car show — it is a unique opportunity to start a discourse about everything artistic and inspirational that goes together with cars,” Paolo Tumminelli, chairman of Grand Basel advisory board, is quoted in the news release.
“Throughout history, the automobile has influenced – and has been influenced by – design, architecture and the arts and ‘The Automobile by Ponti’ is an archetype of this interconnected relationship.
“To see this design come to life for the first time, 65 years after the original drawings were created, will be truly remarkable,” said Salvatore Licitra, Ponti’s grandson. “The car was thought to be too radical at the time, but many of its features would prove fundamental in the two decades of car design that followed.”