Le conseguenze dell'amore

The story of the renovation project for Milan’s church of San Francesco is one of love at first sight. Photo Toshihide Kajihara

When Shuji Takano saw Gio Ponti’s architecture. This executive of the Inax Corporation, Japan’s largest tile manufacturer, read an article on the Hotel Parco dei Principi in Sorrento in a local magazine and was fascinated by the blue tiles cladding the building designed by the Milanese architect in 1926. Wishing to learn more, he flew to the Lombard capital, where he visited the archives and met Ponti’s grandson, Salvatore Licitra, who told him that many of his famous grandfather’s masterpieces were extremely run-down and in need of financing for their repair. Before returning to Japan, Shuji Takano also managed to visit some of Ponti’s designs in Milan, including the church in Via Giovio.

The story does not end there. A month later, the Congregazione delle Suore Orsoline, which owns the building, received a box containing three samples, accurate reproductions of the tiles cladding the walls, accompanied by a letter in which Inax promised to supply approximately 1,000 square metres of ceramic tiles for the renovation of all the building’s facades. “It was not easy to include a donation in the accounts, but I decided to reduce our advertising budget and the cost of six advertising pages helped bring new life to a hugely significant building,” explains Ryuichi Kawamoto, president of Inax. No sooner said than done. The happy ending came in late September with a small inauguration ceremony celebrating San Francesco’s new “skin”.

Safeguarding architecture is a matter of culture; it is a social and institutional commitment. Money is often the obstacle. If more companies had the same presence of mind, we could cure another “patient” awaiting restoration. This story shows that you can “love architecture”. Kaoru Tashiro

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