Villa L’Ange Volant: Gio Ponti’s Italian Haven in Paris

Villa L’Ange Volant: Gio Ponti’s Italian Haven in Paris
Situated in Garches, a well-heeled suburb a few kilometers west of Paris, the Villa L’Ange Volant (the Flying Angel) was the first commission outside Italy for famed architect and designer Gio Ponti. As I stand admiring the graceful façade, my heart is tugged between homesickness and pride. For someone like me, born in Milan, Italy, the name Gio Ponti is as familiar as the most iconic building he designed in 1957 to house the Pirelli tiremaker headquarters, still dominating the Milanese skyline. Finding a perfectly preserved piece of his genius just a few miles from my Parisian home feels nothing short of serendipitous. This mansion befits the special relationship Ponti had with the City of Light, where the young architect’s big international break came in 1925. Photo credit © Christina Vervitsioti At a time when mixing design and architecture was still unheard of (at least in Italy), Ponti took a professional gamble and accepted the post of artistic director for Richard-Ginori, a storied porcelain maker in dire need of updating. The outcome, a collection presented at the Paris International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925, won him a Grand Prix in the ceramic category, and caught the eye of Tony Bouilhet, scion of the owners of the goldsmith and tableware company Christofle. Around that time, Tony’s parents had decided to have a new country house erected near the recently inaugurated Saint Cloud golf course. Imported from across the Channel, golf was a new pastime that took the French upper classes by storm. It took all of Tony’s power of persuasion to convince his parents to hire the young Ponti, virtually unknown in France, at a time when seasoned modernist architects like Perret, Le Corbusier and Mallet-Stevens were busy designing similar mansions in the area. Sophie Bouilhet-Dumas, Tony’s granddaughter and one of the curators of the 2018 Ponti retrospective at MAD Paris, fondly recalls the strong connection between Tony and Gio. The two men not only shared a passion for design and innovation, but also a more personal link, through Ponti’s niece, Carla Borletti. Ponti had introduced her to Tony on her Paris trip to visit her uncle. Carla ended up extending her trip, the two fell in love and got married, the wedding party taking place at the recently completed Ange Volant. The couple went on to have four children, who spent many a happy moment here. It is now down to Tony’s granddaughter, Sophie Bouilhet Dumas, and her sister Mary Bouilhet to take care of the property for posterity. Recently the house was lovingly restored, bringing back some of the original features Ponti had designed and showcasing an authentic slice of the dolce vita in this well-to-do Parisian suburb.

Lead photo credit : Photo credit © Christina Vervitsioti

More in French architecture

Previous Article The Hit TV Series Lupin: Arsène Lupin Then and Now
Next Article Letter from Paris: February 17, 2021 News Digest

Sarah Bartesaghi Truong has lived, studied and worked in Milan, Paris and London. Her lifelong passion for art in all its forms and her entrepreneurial dreams were the catalyst for a career change: she left the world of investment banking to go back to school, at the Sotheby’s Institute of London. Ten years ago, she moved back to Paris, the ideal location for an art-lover. As an Italian in Paris, she decided she would keep playing the tourist in her adoptive home town, always on the lookout for the many wonders the French capital has to offer to the curious explorer. VeniVidiParis, the company she founded, plans curated itineraries in the French capital and its vicinity for travellers wishing to discover the city’s vibrant art scene, but not only. Take a look at her recent discoveries on her Instagram feed, @venividiparis, or contact her at [email protected] for help planning your next Parisian vacation.