The church of St. Francis al Fopponino on which Gio Ponti worked from 1959 onwards, was inaugurated in 1964. Initially, requested and financed by the Shopkeepers' Union in Milan, the church subsequently fell under the "22 churches for 22 councils" plan established by cardinal Montini (who became Pope in 1963 taking the name of Paul VI), who celebrated the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Ponti was called upon in 1961 to design a church with a parish centre, in harmony with the natural ties of the landscape and with the seventeenth century church of Santi Giovanni Battista e Carlo al Fopponino.
The volume of the church, sitting slightly back from the road, creates a small square which still serves, to this day, as a parvis. The façade is part of a continuous screen that joins the church to the parish buildings creating a truly spectacular urban front and has two unusual features: on the one side, the central part is brought forward while on the other, the entire screen is perforated by hexagonal, diamond-shaped openings. In particular, eight of these frame the sky at the back with a precise reference to the wind façade of the Lombardy Romanesque style, in which the infinity of the divine is symbolically crowned. The three central diamond shapes, on the other hand, show the thickness of the wall and are closed in by three stain glass windows created at a later date.
At night, the thickness can now be perceived thanks to the addition of Underscore inOut lights that evenly light up the splays, clearly defining the hexagonal shape.
Even the entire interior, designed around a criterion of simplicity and sleekness, develops in an asymmetrical hexagonal shape. The structure is in reinforced concrete and consists of variable-section pillars that merge with the beams on the gable roof. The vast central nave is flanked by two lower and narrower side naves that both terminate at the altar. Underscore light lines have been fitted for the entire length of the naves creating a washing effect on the vertical walls and also partially illuminate the ceiling.
The polygonal shape is picked up on again in the piercing of the decorative elements; in particular, the presence of different hexagonal openings and certain quadrangular windows makes the environment bright, while in some points the light is directed by cement screens.
At night, the general lighting, which is even and diffused, in the central nave is now provided by a series of Front Light spotlights installed on rails that have been positioned at the height of arms that support the chandeliers, again designed by Ponti for the church and restored by Olivari.
The company from Borgomanero, produced the Cono handles for the complex, designed by Ponti specifically for all the doors in this ecclesiastical building.
The company was entrusted with restoring the chandeliers that were removed from the church's set-up in the 1980s and have now been salvaged. The entire restoration work on the metal structure took place at the Olivari workshops. They started by analysing the treatment originally made on the brass and then, after sandblasting and grinding the surfaces, to remove the oxidisation, proceeded with horizontal satinizing and subsequent transparent varnishing before being fired in the kiln. This treatment will ensure the appearance of the chandeliers remains unaltered for many years, restoring the church's welcoming atmosphere and the spatial concept originally desired by Ponti.
The architect, Ponti also designed the furniture, religious furnishings and even the liturgical vestments. He defined the artistic and decorative furnishings, thus actualising his design of total work of art: the entire space has, therefore, been designed with a precise artistic coherence, from the architectural volume right up to the furniture.
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