Louis Hellman, cartoonist, at Scarpa’s Canova Plaster Cast Gallery, Possagno. Circa 1990.
Carlo Scarpa was commissioned to design the Olivetti Showroom in 1956 and the work was completed over the next couple of years. The site was awkward, long and thin, and at about four meters high, hardly able to support a second level. But it was also engaging, a corner position overlooking St Marks Square. Scarpa placed long wooden balconies along the long edges of the space, and these were accessed from a slightly off-centre stretched suspended marble staircase. Together these served to accentuate the length and height of the space, while also allowing the qualities of light and air to be gradually appreciated as the visitor moved from the entrance to the centre of the shop. The tiled floor appeared as if moving water and the display tables that were cantilevered from the windows seemed to float into the space.
Olivetti have long since left the premises and the shop now houses objet d’art. The decorative finishes are beginning to age, the plaster is stained, the bronze is tarnished and in places the marble has decayed, but the distinctive character and exquisite nature of the space is still very evident.
Nostalgia…The Brion tomb (1969-1978) near Treviso by Carlo Scarpa, note the sarcophagi leaning towards each other below the reinforced concrete arch.
On a recent visit to Venice, Continuity in Architecture noted the changes that have been made to Carlo Scarpa’s masterly interpretation of the Venetian Palazzo, the Querini Stampalia Foundation. These changes are apparent even before entering the building, Scarpa’s delicate bridge is no longer in use as the entrance, and instead the visitor accesses the building from around the corner. This does seem to destroy the careful sequence of entrance spaces, although this was difficult to ascertain as the meticulous foyer rooms with their moats are now exhibition spaces. When CIA visited, they were blacked out to contain a geometric installation of tiny lights. The recital room was lined with transparent plastic, another installation rather than a protective device we hope. But the elegant courtyard garden, containing the moving water, appeared intact.