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Carlo Scarpa

Carlo Scarpa

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Published by Neitherboth
A descriptive essay on Carlo Scarpa and his process.
A descriptive essay on Carlo Scarpa and his process.

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Published by: Neitherboth on Aug 04, 2009
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04/28/2013

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CARLO SCARPA : MAKING ARCHITECTURE SPEAK 
Carlo Scarpa cannot be easily defined. An oscillation between the poet, thecraftsman, the historian and the architect occurs that serves to blend any direct definitioninto an elusive amalgam. Having not technically qualified as an architect, the formaldistinction, and perhaps restriction, of such a title left Scarpa as an outsider of sorts. Sucha position produced in Scarpa the rigour and intensity of the self-educated and theinclination toward the regional. Being outside of the International modernist milieu assuch, resulted ultimately in an isolation from the social and economical aspects of functionalist modernism. However, the formal aspects of modernist theory stillinfluenced Scarpa. Subsequently, of the two aspects of the architectural phenomena,namely it’s social aspect and it’s specific poetry, Scarpa inclined toward the second.
AsCrippa continues, the link he kept to the first is what defines Scarpa’s genius. Scarpahimself, in speaking at the University Institute of Architecture in Venice of 1963-64,voiced his dilemma;“I have a reputation as a formalist, a creator of hedonistic beauty. I would rather  build a council house.”
Such limitations on his sphere of influence, while not inhibiting his developing a modernsense for the quality of form, restricted Scarpa to small works for private clients, alongwith museum and exhibition work. Nevertheless, time has revealed that Scarpa’s variousinterventions into historical settings, with their inherent regionalism, have providedvaluable social results through appreciation, contributing to the cultural quality within a
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specific individuality. This quality was recognized as important in the late seventies’international modern movement.
 Regionalism and intervention in establishing a narrative define the works to bediscussed. Carlo Scarpa was born in 1906 in Vicenza and rarely wandered too far fromthe Veneto region. Having completed a degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice in1926, Scarpa worked designing for the Murano glassworks in Venice, producingrenowned works and establishing a rapport and method with the craftsman. Veniceformed an indelible imprint onto his mind. It was essential to his roots and theByzantinism that gave him a taste for a ‘relentless analysis of detail.’
Such passion for his region and its history was coupled with an intense interest in the visual arts of themoderns such as Cezanne, Modigliani, the pointillists, futurists, and cubists. The formalvalues of architecture and art developed, further driven by a fascination with the Japaneseobsession with visual formality and contrast. Architecturally, a modern sensibility camethrough the influence of Le Corbusier’s economy and ‘contour’, Aalto’s use of naturalmaterials and most prominently Wright’s organic method for integral ornament.Venice cannot be denied as the greatest influence on Scarpa. It’s history andcharacter provokes Scarpa’s extremely sensitive sense of place. Due to its isolation,industrialization has not impeded upon Venice. It remains a city of artisan craft, of walking, of vistas and alleyways, and of course the inescapable tension of the water. For Scarpa the water is sacred, not only for its capacity to reflect and fragment light, but alsofor its temporal qualities and the incessant wearing effect it has on materials, creatinglayer upon layer of stucco. The flood in Venice creates a nervous tension and everyone is
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aware of the looming spill over. With the ebb and flow come the tiny increments of measure, discernable in the stratification of the walls or the filling of emergency drainage points. Detail and measure are a part of the Venetian life. Stucco is applied and re-applied, suggestive of the constant decay and renewal.
, the layering of history andimpossibility of a complete restoration. Scarpa carried very seriously the attitude of theItalian processes of ‘restoro’ and ‘intervento’. Restoro is to restore and make anew, whileinterevento is considered surgical-to make well.
Ruskin’s thoughts on the ‘inalienablelink between the built fabric and the society that produced it’
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also resonated withinScarpa’s attitude to intervention;“They order you to imitate the style of ancient windows, forgetting that thosewindows were produced in different times by a different way of life with ‘windows’ madeof other materials in other styles and with a different way of making windows. Anywaystupid imitations of that sort always look mean. Buildings that imitate look like humbugs,and that’s just what they are.”
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 Problems with authorities to this end followed Scarpa because his primary interestin his intervention projects was not the concept of restoration, but more with historicalclarity, making history visible by the co-existence of overlaying fragments of construction.
Such an approach necessarily requires a knowledge of history, or at leastthe correct amount of enthusiasm and passion to research each aspect of a project.Determination to include and welcome the various ‘conversations’ surrounding a project,such as the historical precedent and the artisans involved, indicate Scarpa’s method for a
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Interesting ideas and point of view! Is this text a part of a book, article, or does it reflect the publisher's personal thoughts?
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