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Carlo Scarpa


Venice, Italy

Inspired by the materiality, history, and landscape of Venetian culture, and influenced by the serene minimalism of the Japanese aesthetic.

Inspired by the materiality, history, and landscape of Venetian culture, and influenced by the serene minimalism of the Japanese aesthetic, Carlo Scarpa trained as an Italian architect and produced works profoundly sensitive to the changes of his time, entrenched in a deeply sensuous material imagination. Scarpa earned a degree as Professor of Architectural Drawing at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, but since he chose to forgo the government architecture exam, he never became a licensed architect though his influence on the field remains vast and profound.

“I want to see things. This is the only thing I can relate to.” For Scarpa, the art of seeing was its own critical commentary on reality and drawing and execution was a vital part of the development of experience. By caressing materials, playing with light and color, and experimenting with spatial arrangements, Scarpa created his own visual commentary on his designs, one that excluded stylistic rules and led to an elasticity of composition that introduced distortions and even flat contradictions in techniques.

As artistic director of Venini from 1933 – 1947, Scarpa designed jars and chandeliers that challenged traditional concepts of space, and introduced a contemporary aesthetic flush with vivid, saturated colors. His talent as an architect became more widely recognized after World War II, when commissions to renovate existing buildings culminated in a heightened reverence for the old as juxtaposed with the new. Perhaps the most famous of his reconstructions was the Museo Castelvecchio where views of the historic building bleed through the minimalist aesthetic of Scarpa’s architectural overlay, revolutionary for its time with an air of eluding time itself with a radical mix of the ancient with the modern.

Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Hoffman and finding motivation in the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian, Scarpa’s work encompassed structures, landscapes, and gardens in many regions of Italy as well as in Canada, the U.S., Saudia Arabia, France, and Switzerland. His foray into industrial design began in the 1960s after meeting Dino Gavina. He later became president of Gavina’s eponymous company, fusing time-honored crafts with modern manufacturing processes, respecting traditions while looking toward the future. With lighting fixtures that delight, innovative tables with interesting architectural details, seating that harmonize volume and form, bookcases with a riveting blend of materiality, dinnerware that experiment with shape, vases that arouse texture and color, Scarpa’s designs for the home orient a robust character with a sculptural presence that stands the test of time, precise in detail and deceptively simple in form.

Known for an instinctive approach to materials and exceptionally skilled in manifesting essential architectural geometries, Scarpa designed furniture that became emblems of Italian design, like the Doge table for Cassina with its innovative approach to shapes and sizes, and his famous Cornaro sofa, which hide joints and gives the appearance of floating in its frame. Winner of National Olivetti Award for Architecture, he served as Director of the Architectural Institute in Venice until his death in 1978. With a subtle mix of modernism and historicism and a devotion to hand craftsmanship, Scarpa’s legacy of beauty in meticulous detailing and materiality endures, offering homes across the globe a distinctive style and insightful simplicity that resonates to this day.