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The giant. The all-seeing eye atop the dollar-bill pyramid. The father of modern Italian design. It’s as if he found a way to mainline the personality, creativity, and culture of the Italian people into his furniture, objects, and buildings. His prolific work in every medium is sensual, expressive, playful, colorful, and well crafted.

There’s little Ponti couldn’t do. Trained as an architect, he made a name for himself designing ceramics, then glassware, then furniture, then buildings. In his life, he worked for over 120 different companies. He was also a great professor, writer, cultural advocate, and founder of the important and collectible design magazine Domus. Known for being one of the most charming and magnanimous of designers, feverishly curious, he welcomed all to his famous open-door studio. His 1961 Pirelli Tower (above) still looms symbolically and literally over his hometown, Milan, the style capital of the world. On the day the skyscraper was completed, Ponti was quoted as saying, “She is so beautiful that I’d love to marry her.”

One of Ponti’s most famous designs was the legendary Superleggera (“Superlight”) chair (1957), a marvel of engineering, craftsmanship, and grace. Eleganza. So light but so strong. Even a nattily dressed child could pick up this enduring classic with just his little finger.