Richard Murphy and Carlo Scarpa: A Regional-Modernist Dialogue

Stephanie Else 090004651

1 Contents

Abstract Introduction 1.1 Context 1.2 Subtext 1.3 Focus 1.4 Murphy: as Architect 1.5 Scarpa: as Architect A Regionalist Approach 2.1 Regionalism versus Vernacular 2.2 The Language of Buildings 2.3 The City: Regional Stratification Architecture in Principle 3.1 Layers in History 3.2 Venice 3.3 Scarpa’s Lessons


Architecture in Detail 4.1 Site: Topography 9 11 13 17

3 3 3 4

4.2 Threshold 4.3 Materiality Conclusion


References Bibliography


5 6 7

7 7 8

2 Abstract Currently, we inhabit a world in which globalisation is becoming a progressively dominant phenomenon. It is becoming increasingly accepted that a uniform, ‘global’, architecture is inappropriate in responding to the varied rich, diverse regional variations and cultures. Often, it is the architecture of a region which defines its place within the world. As such, current thinking suggests that globalisation threatens to eclipse the idea of the locale entirely. Within the built environment there is a responsibility to resists these global pressures. Characterised by the parameters of context, a regionalist architecture signifies the exclusivity of a place. This paper, through a comparative analysis of two exemplary regional-modernists, Richard Murphy and Carlo Scarpa, will investigate the reasoning and arguments of their work and its relationship to contemporary architectural regionalism; underpinning the necessity for regionalism as an approach within architecture. Articulated within their works is a language which, in its sensitivity to place, is timeless. Ultimately, it is the vivid dialogue which exists between the two architects which is the focus of this paper.

3 Introduction 1.2 Subtext: Regionalism, an Architecture of Place Regionalism is a fundamental concept which aims to maintain, and sometimes
Regionalism is never a singular theory or practice but is most often a means by which tensions – such as those between globalisation and localism, modernity and tradition – are resolved.
(Canizaro 2007)

restore, cultural idiosyncrasies. Importantly, it resists the pressures of globalisation. Often a balance is sought to adapt certain global ideas, such as the integration of technology, with a distinct relation to the existing characteristics of a locale: the latter compelling the former. There is an implicit requirement of the legitimacy of architecture within its local context. As such, regionalism aims to enhance the locality: culturally, historically and socially. Thus it maintains identity. Ultimately, an ‘architecture of place’ can be made manifest within such a globalised world. This is only achievable though, if the architect is willing to accept that this concept is fundamental in preventing a world in which there exists a single globalised culture. 1.3 Focus The architects, Carlo Scarpa and Richard Murphy, are exemplary in their regional modernist approach to architecture. Their approach is maintained primarily through the concept of ‘layering’ – an idea which is fundamental in the creation of an architecture of place. This concept is vast in its complexities and will be explored with particular emphasis on the work of Richard Murphy.

1.1 Context The world which exists today is a world of increasing contemporary globalisation1. With the relatively recent exponential expansion of industry and commerce, in architecture, the concept of ‘mass production’ and the standardisation of products specifically, there is an ever decreasing identity of ‘place’. However, there is efficiency at its core. This effect has certainly become the crux of existing societies. The world today demands such a high level of fast-paced affordable production that efficiency is necessary. Globalisation, typically, produces uniformity in its language; ultimately though, this does often result in the loss of cultural ‘identity’.


It has been well documented that ‘globalisation’ in architecture is a phenomenon which began in the 1950s and 60s. However, Anthony King (Herrle 2008) maintains the argument that ‘globalisation’ is actually not a relatively new concept. He argues that, historically, th humanity has always been influenced by globalism. He highlights, specifically, in the 16 th and 17 centuries, the impact of Renaissance planning and design on European ‘colonial cities’.

Murphy’s thorough academic studies into the work of Scarpa have had an immense influence on his own architectural principles, which can, at times, be explicitly observed within his work. Significantly though, each architect has his own

4 architectural language whose development can be traced back through to the essential element of ‘place’. Indeed, Murphy’s Scottish regionalism, and Scarpa’s Venetian regionalism ultimately define the differences in the language of their architecture. Thus far, Murphy’s affinity with Carlo Scarpa has been well-referenced. However, an in-depth direct comparative analysis of the ideologies and principles of the two, has not, to current knowledge, been undertaken. The intent then, is to explore the dialogue between the two architects. With emphasis on tracing a narrative through Murphy’s buildings alongside Scarpa’s ideals, the dialogue will become apparent: rich in its moments of synchronicity and equally so where divergence occurs. 1.4 Murphy: as Architect
Fig. 1 Fig. 2

The specific materiality which might have established a building within its context is losing its relevance. Currently, globalised urban environments are materialising. A city’s identity is fast becoming obscured by the calamitous nature of what many deem to be ‘modern architecture’. Architecture is losing its authenticity by falsifying itself within its context as, often, architects feel compelled to ‘make a statement’ by creating something quite alien within its surroundings. Daniel Libeskind’s ‘deconstructavist’ approach provides compelling evidence of this. [Fig.1]

Saying that architecture should be of its own time may be stating the obvious…but today…for a city to be a living organism it must accept the architecture of its own time; to make history for future generations and to enrich rather than disrupt its context.
Richard Murphy

Ironically, Murphy excels by doing precisely the opposite: his forte is not making a statement. His is an architecture which responds directly to place. [Fig.2] His architecture might be clarified as a series of contrasts. Having worked on several intervention projects, where the architect is forced to work with ‘what is already there’, he has developed a rich, meaningful architectural language. Clarifying the new alongside the old, successfully, is not an easy task. Like Scarpa though, Murphy conveys this quite effortlessly.

Richard Murphy has a very clear understanding of the world in which we dwell. Most significantly, he understands the impact of the effects of globalisation within the built environment.

5 His architectural language is holistic in the respect that a single idea can be traced from its conceptualisation right through to the finest of details. This method, specifically, is one on which Carlo Scarpa has had the greatest of influence. 1.5 Scarpa: as Architect Carlo Scarpa [1906 – 1978], at base, can be described as an architect – craftsman. Stimulated by his environment; historic Venezia. In 2010, Ann-Catrin Shultz published a book entitled Carlo Scarpa: Layers. In it, she comprehensively explores Scarpa’s affinity with the concept of stratification within architecture. This is an exceptionally vast topic which extends beyond the scope of this paper. However, this concept will be explored in respect to the dialogue which exists between Scarpa and Murphy. Scarpa’s architecture, like Murphy’s is made manifest entirely by the environment in which it is situated. The historicism of Venice has compelled his entire ethos. Furthermore, concerned with the tectonics of architecture, the legibility and assemblage of elements, Scarpa sustains an architectural language which is, in effect, timeless. Typically then, there is a contemporary relevance within Scarpa’s ideologies. Vernacular architecture conversely, is the result of a dynamic cultural process. Crucially, it is the culturally syncretic response to various regional filters which ultimately dictate the outcome. (Heath 2009) These ‘filters’ describe the collective regional forces acting on a particular place, such as; temporal and topographical conditions, cultural memory and tradition, materiality. Ultimately it is the stratification of these elements which permit a ‘situated regionalism’. Within the work of Scarpa and Murphy, the concept of architecture as a series of layers, inclusive of the aforementioned regional filters, is paramount. As Frampton understands it, there is an inherent strength within regionalist ideologies which are capable of sustaining the credibility of the locale within the global. A Regionalist Approach 2.1 Regionalism versus Vernacular Canizaro (2007) compares ‘regionalism’ and the ‘vernacular’. He states that where the vernacular is a necessary response to the specificity of local conditions – social, climatic, topographic – regionalism is ‘voluntary’: a series of architectural theories employed. Kenneth Frampton reinforces this concept;
Regionalism has dominated architecture in almost all countries at some time…By way of general definition we can say that it upholds the individual and local architectonic features against more universal and abstract ones.

6 Significantly, the architectural vernacular provides cohesion and a subsequent contextual narrative which is regionally comprehensive. This developing, regionalist, architectural language is as vast in its complexities as the spoken word. It is however, important to place emphasis on the global comprehension of this language. Crucially, this understanding is made possible through the existence of architecture pertaining to place and locale: the linguistic variety within architecture made manifest by social circumstance. The Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti reinforces this concept, upholding the view that ‘it is architecture itself that needs, for its very production, the material represented by social relations’. (Frampton 1996) In order to facilitate an understanding of the global, it is paramount to first appreciate the uniqueness of identity pertaining to the local. Regionalism is the fundamental characterisation of a society’s place within the world. Recognisable within Murphy and Scarpa’s ideologies, regionalism forms the base strata. Contemporary regionalism, it seems, is a necessary ideology which enables the preservation of the smaller, yet most significant, existing cultural and social varieties within the vast spread of globalisation. The significance lies in the clarification of the micro, the local, within the macro, the global. Conclusively, the local is what constitutes the global ‘whole’. 2.2 The Language of Buildings An architecture of its own time and place: a testimonial which somehow pervades the architectural psyche. In much of the architecture produced today however, there is little evidence of a response to this. What must surely then be ascertained is why this is. For, embedded within the Murphy/Scarpa dialogue is a fundamental response to ‘place’. Analogy is important here: the appropriation of dialogue within architecture is crucial. There is a language which exists between a building and its context, the legitimacy of which is determined by the appropriateness of the architecture. Engaged within this language are the communities, the people, by which architecture is intended. Further to this, Unwin (2009) draws a distinct comparison between the idea of ‘place’ and ‘language’: ‘Place is to architecture, it may be said, as meaning is to language’ Ultimately, it can be surmised that place is the generator of the architectural language. Just as language is a composition of words, the vocabulary of architecture can be read as the fundamentals: roof, wall and floor. Where Scarpa and Murphy are concerned, each architect has their own distinct language due to regional specificities. Inherent between the two however, is a dialogue. Within Murphy’s architecture are the lessons of Scarpa.

7 2.3 The City: Regional Stratification
The experience and memory of humankind are laid down in layers in the physical environment, concretely and graphically. Every new part exploits ancient forms, materials and ways of making. Building is, at base, a sign of hope, a sign of society’s belief in future, a gesture forward in time.
Marja-Ritta Norri

Architecture in Principle 3.1 Layers in History History, crucially, is not solely about the past. It is the signifier of growth: of evolution. Evidently the past is the sculptor of the present, and of the future. At its core, the formation of a city over a prolonged period of time is the essential element in shaping the architectural vernacular. As discussed, there is consistency within the regional filters which define the fundamentals of a vernacular architecture. While this is true, time also permits evolution within societies. Ultimately, it is social progression which dictates change within the vernacular form. The input of the individual, especially, is the heart of an architecture of experience. Within the regional-modernist mechanisms of Scarpa and Murphy, this concept is absolute. For both architects, the city is in essence, their architectural palette. Regional filters can be rendered as the primary; their subjective input, the secondary. As architects, both ultimately, are sculptors of their environment. 3.2 Venice Within the historicism of Venice are numerous strata. Through a holistic understanding of the qualitative elements, Scarpa had the ability to develop an architecture whose contemporary language can be read as an evolution of the city’s history and regional specificities.

Both Murphy and Scarpa base their entire architectural philosophies on the existence of the layers inherent within ‘place’; within society. Although regional specificities dictate the differences between their resulting architectural languages, their shared belief in an architecture which is ‘forward thinking’ is clarified by Murphy’s assertion that a city’ must embrace the architecture of its time, in order to make history for future generations.’ (Weston et al 2001) There is a complexity within cities. Through time, rapid social, cultural and economic developments cause cities to expand exponentially. As such the numerous strata constituting these dense urban environments is evident, particularly so within cities enriched by their history. As regional-modernists, Scarpa and Murphy each from a city whose complexities are profound, Venice and Edinburgh respectively, there exists an affinity between architect and environment. Through the refinement of a city’s inherent complexities there is the establishment of a syncretic, contextually rooted architecture.

8 Historically, due to its complete inaccessibility, Venice was unaffected by the machine age. As such, the absence of industrialisation is a resonant factor within the city. Globally, cities are governed by the existence of the motor vehicle. Venice however, is effectively a pedestrian city: a design parameter in which Scarpa revelled. This inaccessibility, of course, is due to the geographical positioning of the city. Situated with a large body of water, separated entirely from mainland Italy, Venice is primarily characterised by its canalled system. Constructed at water level, the city is often seen to be ‘living constantly on its nerves’ (Murphy 1993) as the aqua alta, ‘high water’, is a regular occurrence. Certainly, the city’s horizontality is tantalising to observe; the street plane is at once solid ground and waterway. Simultaneously, the water defines and percolates the city. Scarpa was at once an architect of his time, and an architect ahead of his time. The articulation of his architectural language is an enrichment of the Venetian identity. An identity wrought by the materiality and geography, and significantly, the special light which permeates the city. Above all, Scarpa recognised these ‘place defining’ elements as being intrinsic to the nature of the subjective architectural experience. According to Mazzariol et al (1987) Scarpa was not interested in the random…Place meant the space where some rite was made manifest. Certainly, his is an architecture of experience within which the ideologies of regionalism are strengthened. Similar ideologies can be traced as a narrative through the works of Murphy. However, the emerging dialogue between the two architects becomes especially rich where the parameters of place are made evident within their linguistic divergences. Typically, the horizontality of Venice is a direct contrast to the vertiginous nature of Edinburgh. Both limited however, by natural parameters; the alluring waters of the Venetian Lagoon and the challenging mountainous landscape of Scotland. Typified by their respective constraints, Scarpa and Murphy separately maintain their own architectural narratives. There is strength, though, evident in their combined dialogue particularly within the juxtaposition of certain design outcomes. 3.3 Scarpa’s Lessons Richard Murphy has often acknowledged his great affinity with Scarpa and has made clear the influences which have manifested themselves within his own architecture: in principle and in practice. Scarpa’s influences extend beyond the ‘end product’; just as Murphy’s ideals are inclusive of the design process and ultimately, the refinement of an idea within the detail. Indeed it is Scarpa’s methodology, specifically the evolution of an idea, whose narrative can be read from beginning to end, which is perhaps most evident within the works of Murphy. Like Scarpa, Murphy’s absolution in the importance of place permits the subtle fusion of ideals. In evidence, it is the adaptation of Scarpa’s ideas which makes Murphy’s architecture his own. It is not a case of an application of ideas, but rather

9 an understanding of Scarpa’s reasoning which Murphy has allowed to influence the language of his own architecture. Murphy’s Scottish regionalism retains similar qualities to that of Scarpa’s Venetian regionalism, with innovation pervading the architectural vernacular. Murphy is responsive to both time and place. He recognises that while lessons from the past can be relevant in the present, they are not absolute. Mazzariol (1987) describes Scarpa’s parallel approach: ‘he used a contemporary language appropriate for 1968, but the intention was to recompose a previous reality and send it on, to recommend and entrust it to a future time’. Murphy’s innovation and ability to understand the appropriateness of the built environment with relation to its current social context, further enriches his language within the mainstream Scottish architectural tradition: ‘a language even more firmly anchored to that sense of place’. (Weston et al 2001) Kenneth Frampton’s essay Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, (Foster1990), describes how ‘it is necessary to distinguish between Critical Regionalism and simple-minded attempts to revive the hypothetical forms of a lost vernacular’. The term Critical Regionalism, in his view, is reliant upon the deconstruction of the world culture. It is defined by place-form topography, context, climate, light, tactility and tectonic form. (Mallgrave and Goodman 2011) All of which constitute the reasoning of both Murphy and Scarpa. Essentially, though, it is the site which is the basis for the creation of an architecture of place.

Architecture in Detail In order to provide clarification of the modern – regionalist approach by Scarpa and Murphy, this chapter provides a thorough exploration of their ideologies within selected works. Modern regionalism, typically, can best be observed within the contemporary development of an existing building. As such, to further convey the rich dialogue between the architects, the selected works all fall within the spectrum of ‘intervention’2. 4.1 Site: Topography If a building sits within its site, particularly where there are changes in the topography, it immediately has a convincing contextual basis on which to further develop the design. If the hypothetical site were to be entirely levelled out the idea of place becomes practically obsolete. Kenneth Frampton (Foster1990) further discusses this concept with reference to the Swiss architect, Mario Botta:
The bulldozing of an irregular topography into a flat site is clearly a technocratic gesture which aspires to a condition of absolute placelessness…the terracing of the same site to receive the stepped form of a building is an engagement in the act of ‘cultivating’ the site. It evokes the method alluded to by Mario Botta as ‘building the site’.

‘Intervention’: in architecture, this is termed as the placement of a contemporary insertion alongside or within an existing building.

10 Richard Murphy’s Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre [DCA] completed in 1999, is perhaps the most appropriate example of contention with topography. The L-shaped, multi-function arts building contends with an eight metre fall between the entrance level to the north and the rear of the building. There are five stories arranged within, with only two levels evident upon entry from the north side. [Fig.3] Successful in its subtleties, Richard Carr’s article entitled ‘Vertical Hold’ (1999) is apt: Murphy utilises the stepped, exterior spatial conditions with a central ‘spill out’ space, accessible from the café area within. This space is further stepped and wrapped around the building to the lower level surrounding the university galleries. An elegant public throughway from north to south is therefore permitted. Inside, Murphy exploits the change in level with a dramatic staircase dominating the central public entrance level; this further acts as an extension to the street outside, seamlessly drawing the public into the depths of the building. [Fig.4] Carr (1999) suggests that it is experience from working in ‘vertiginous Edinburgh’ which has permitted Murphy’s subtle solution to the complex site. Further to this, Frampton ascertains that:
The specific culture of a region becomes inscribed into the form and realisation of the work…which arises out of ‘in-laying’ the building into the site. It has… the capacity to embody, in built form, the prehistory of the place… and its subsequent cultivation and transformation across time. Through this layering into the site the idiosyncrasies of place find their expression without falling into sentimentality
(Foster 1990) Fig. 3 Fig. 4

Certainly, Murphy’s delicate response to site establishes and expresses the building’s appropriateness within its context. Carlo Scarpa similarly adopts the approach of layering into the site. Working in Venice however, where the city is very much a horizontal entity compared with the verticality of the Scottish cities of Dundee and Edinburgh, Scarpa’s response differs. Instead his is an approach to floor planes; maintaining the horizontality of the site. Within his project for the renovation of the Querini Stampalia Foundation (1963), the adjustment of various elements within the floor plane are a necessary geographical response; designed to allow water from the adjacent canal to penetrate the building in the event of potential flooding – the aqua alta. In the entrance area, the upper floor plane maintains a raised border over which a lower floor stratum is visible: essentially, a ‘moat’. ‘When there is a flood, the floor in this room consists of a concrete plane, a layer of water, and a raised concrete slab covered with marble mosaic.’ [Fig. 5, 6] (Shultz 2010) At once, Scarpa merges topographical strata with material strata. His anticipation of changing conditions is evidence of the building’s

11 unique characterisation as a direct response its geographical situation. Richard Murphy (1993) himself describes the intention of Scarpa’s symbolism, of Venice’s ‘dominance’ of the waters. Architecture is entirely experiential. Buildings characterise the atmospheric properties of a place. Significantly, they direct the flow of people. If one considers the ‘street’ for example, it is entirely defined by the built environment. The expansion and contraction of spaces is didactic; where tight alleyways lead to narrow lanes; busy vehicular routes link to pedestrian boulevards. [Fig.7] Within this spatial sequence transition is key. It is a necessary layer which permits cohesion. Where architectural intervention is concerned, the creation of a transitional space is fundamental in the evolution of the architectural language. A space between the new
Fig. 5 Fig. 6

and the old is simultaneously part of both, and part of neither. Crucially though, it aids the integration between the conflicting elements. [Fig.8]

In response to existing topographical conditions, whether through the extension of floor planes or by way of Murphy’s vertical extrusions, this regional detailing provides definition for the structure of space surrounding and pervading the building. Ultimately, the specificity of site is the primary dictator of the explicit and implicit properties of route. 4.2 Threshold
Experiencing products of architecture involves movement. One passes from outside to inside through the serial stages of a route… a place where one stops these may be called static places. But the pathway from one static place to another is a place too – a dynamic place.
(Unwin 2009)

Fig. 7

Fig. 8

As human beings, the act of transition has an immense effect on the subjective experience. This occurs both externally and internally. In the design of a building, both are equally fundamental. Architecturally, it is important to understand the prospective experiential qualities of a space. There is always the contention, for example, with the unfamiliarity of a place. It is in the care of the architect then, to ensure as much as is permitted, an

12 ‘openness’ within public buildings. Initially, this issue can be lessened with the effective extension of what is, categorically, a familiar part of the public realm: the street. Importantly, a transitional space may often occur before entering a building – typically, an entrance courtyard. However, this space may not necessarily be entirely enclosed: simply an area which one steps off the street into the ‘realm’ of the building. Certainly, Murphy often employs this tactic. His DCA, for instance, is partially pulled back from the busyness of a main vehicular route into the city centre. This simple move creates what is effectively a secondary pedestrian area, belonging to the building: a ‘precinct’, which, as Murphy ascertains, gives ‘breathing space to the street edge’. [Fig.9] (Weston et al 2001) The idea of an entrance transitional space is not confined to the groundscape; roofscape can also provide a similar experience: the use of canopy is a fundamental transitional element. Employed, typically, as a response to climatic conditions, the
Fig.10 Fig.11

element also provides an extension of a building over the street. Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket gallery is situated directly off a main street. The canopy is subtle, yet the impression of precinct is still apparent. The scale of the DCA meanwhile, allows the building to use both – as well as having a significant precinct, it also employs a canopy over the main entrance. Each of these elements significantly increases the dynamism of the ‘space between’.

Further to this, parallels can be drawn alongside Scarpa’s entrance space at the Querini Stampalia. Similarly to the Fruitmarket Gallery, the Querini Stampalia sits quietly in its context, maintaining the likeness of the surrounding facades. The canalled system however, is ever present; where Murphy’s galleries are concerned with the street, Scarpa is concerned with the water. Indeed, the entrance to the building is quite special, and certainly well defined: the threshold between street and building is made manifest by an elegantly designed bridge. The Scarpa-esque detailing is an event in itself: it signifies the crossing – literally and metaphorically – between old Venezia and the

Fig. 9

13 unique Scarpa intervention. Frampton (1996) describes the bridge as a ‘fixed hinge’; apt in its tectonic properties. Perhaps even more significantly, is the evident appreciation of the horizontality of street meeting the abrupt verticality of the palace façade. Subsequently, the considerable height difference between street and building threshold dictates the asymmetrical camber of the bridge. (Murphy 1993) As with any intervention project, there is a fine line between the creation of a contemporary architectural language and the existing. Each is held in significant juxtaposition with the other. Scarpa, typically, succeeds in clarifying the new alongside the old. The fundamental bridge element respects the existing, but does not replicate. As such, there is an entirely new and unique transitional experience – enhanced by its apposition. Thus far, the concept of threshold has been discussed with primary reference to the properties of physical barriers. Further to this, materiality and light can also be highly indicative of threshold.
(Weston 2008)

4.3 Materiality
Concrete and time-bound, heterogeneous and particular, our feeling for place – ‘space humanised’ as the Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck defined it – is grounded in our bodily experience of the world. It is therefore inescapably material.

The properties and application of material within the works of Murphy and Scarpa are of the utmost importance. Typically, the inherent materiality within their respective regions further enriches their architectural palette. Within their separate narratives, the tactile qualities of material are most significant; its visual and physical properties fundamental in the evocation of the initial emotional response. Within his publication De Architectura, Vitruvius asserts the three fundamental elements within architecture; firmitas, utilitas and venustas3. The significance of materiality within the latter is profound. In utilising the materials appropriated to a region, the architect is able to further sustain a new architectural language alongside the existing. By way of innovation in the application of material, the architect is able to develop his dialogue and as such provide enrichment within its context. The advancement in technology, a benefit of globalisation, permits this innovation. Contrary to this, Frampton (1996) upholds the view that technology, as the maximisation of industrial production, excludes


Fig. 12

Fig. 13

‘Firmitas, utilitas, venustas’ [Latin]: translation by Sir Henry Wotton; firmness, commodity, delight

14 architecture as craft and as an act of place creation from the process. Within the works of Murphy and Scarpa, this statement can be disproved. Inherent within their work is the subtle integration of modern technologies as a means by which innovation and revitalisation of tradition can be achieved. Scarpa, particularly, had an affinity with the unconventional sculpting of material. He immensely enjoyed the play of the perception of material. In the Querini Stampalia, the stonework can be perceived at once as simple cladding and then as a kind of wood. (Shultz 2010) The travertine, cut as a panel, is ingrained with the visual properties appropriated to timber panelling. [Fig.15] For Scarpa, however, the real masterstroke manifests itself within the articulation of material as a space defining element. As a systematic series of planes, there is at once a simplicity and complexity within the architectural language. The complexities lie within the methodical arrangement and application of material within the planarity of the building. Materiality is ultimately the transposition of separation and cohesion within the building’s vocabulary: roof, wall and floor plane. Each defined as separate entities, yet described as part of the whole. [Fig.14] In his work there pervades a disjunctive narrative in which what is, is always accompanied by what has been and what might have been.(Frampton 1996)This assertion by Frampton, determines the intrinsic, holistic ethos embedded within Scarpa’s dialectical works.

Fig. 14

Fig. 15

Richard Weston (2008) describes the impact of challenging the natural climatic and temporal filters with specific reference to the ‘white architecture of the International Style4’. Within this ‘style’ there existed a high maintenance demand in order to sustain the intended pristine architectural image, unaffected by the course of time. Conversely, both Murphy and Scarpa uphold a positive preoccupation with ‘time’ as a tool with which they permit a natural evolution in a building’s dialogue. Key social thinkers, John Ruskin and William Morris also shared this attitude. Morris, particularly, argued that there should be clarity in the definition of what is new, and what is old. (Weston 2008) Certainly, the stratification of elements facilitates this clarification. Murphy’s DCA is exemplary in adopting the principle of ‘layering the façade’. The intervention with an existing brick warehouse is evident with the retention of its shell. However, being largely a contemporary insertion, Murphy provides legibility between the old and new through the literal separation of material. The historic brick
Weston refers to Le Corbusier’s ‘time defying aspirations’ of his Purist Villas.

15 shell, pulled away from the contemporary pre-patinated copper cladding has the resultant effect of one material slipping seamlessly past the other. Murphy’s integrative approach allows the inclusion of white render as a mediator; softened by the inherent tactility of the copper and brick. [Fig.16] Within this separation, there is an honesty. Murphy clarifies the structural properties of the material, specifically, the brick wall as an evident non loadbearing element. fundamental handrail, while the adjoining teak and brass equivalent provides the integral tactility required of such a device. 5 Where the two are connected the junction is paramount. Pairs of steel flat bars conclude the composition, evidence of Scarpa’s ‘adoration of the joint6’. (Murphy 1993)


Fig. 19

Inherent within the intervention projects as discussed, is the ability to provide a clear
Fig. 16 Fig. 17

distinction between the numerous strata, of which the ultimate sculptor is ‘light’. Wholly ‘place specific’, the tonality of light in Venice differs entirely to that in Scotland. However, the principles in utilising the element remain constant. Typically, it signifies reassurance within the public domain. As such, it is often employed as a guiding element through the depths of a building: a principle evident in Murphy’s galleries. [Fig. 20, 21] Light, in its ability to transform spatial perception, is the ultimate element which the architect must master.

Glass and steel are employed with the same intention and with equal success in Murphy’s Fruitmarket Gallery. The existing stonework having been largely retained, sustains the secondary layer of steel structure within which there is the integration of a hoist and sliding glass screen. [Fig.17] Expression of structure, evident at a larger scale within the works of Murphy, can similarly be observed in Scarpa’s detailing. The bridge at the Querini Stampalia contains a dialogue almost entirely its own. Initially, the purpose for what appears to be a ‘twin’ handrail is perplexing. However, in recollection of Scarpa’s meticulous craftsmanship, the reasoning becomes evident. Structural necessity dictates the form. The steel uprights configure the

This same principle is evident also within the work of the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto; his iconic leather-bound door handles specifically. (Weston 2008) 6 As Frampton (1996) so entitles his chapter on Scarpa.


Designing a space is designing light. Without light there is no architecture.
Louis Kahn

Fig. 20

Fig. 21

17 Conclusion Within the dialogue which exists between Richard Murphy and Carlo Scarpa, there is an inherent linguistic cohesion between architect and place. Arguably, Scarpa was one of the first regional-modernists. His architectural language is, typically, the evolution of his great affinity with the city of Venice. Through his accentuation of the idiosyncrasies within Venetian culture he was able to produce an architecture whose relevance pervades time. Scarpa’s ideologies, as such, embed themselves within contemporary architecture. The principles within Murphy’s regionalist approach are evidence of this. Indeed, it is the constant underlying factor of ‘place’ and subsequent regional specificities which enable the existence of the vivid dialogue. Regionalism within architecture, significantly, sustains the locale. It reasserts the importance of cultural identity within our increasingly globalised world. Ultimately, it sustains the diversity which formulates our global identity and world culture. Ours is a world in which cultural divergences signify our exclusivity as a whole.

18 References A.J. Murphy’s Magic (1999) The Architects’ Journal. (April) pp. 26 – 33 Canizaro, V.B. (2007) Architectural Regionalism: Collected Writings on Place, Identity, Modernity and Traditon. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Carr, R. (1999) Vertical Hold. Building Design. (March) Crippa, M.A. (1986) Carlo Scarpa: Theory, Design, Projects. Cambridge: MIT Press Dal Co, F. and Mazzariol, G. (1987) Carlo Scarpa: The Complete Works. Great Britain: The Architectural Press Foster, H. (1990) Postmodern Culture. London: Pluto Press Frampton, K. (1996) Studies in Tectonic Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press Heath, K. Wm. (2009) Vernacular Architecture and Regional Design: Cultural Process and Environmental Response. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd. Mallgrave, H.F. and Goodman, D. (2011) An Introduction to Architectural Theory: 1968 – Present. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Massey, D. (1999) Space, Place and Gender. Minneapolis, US: University of Minnesota Press Murphy, R. (1997) The Work of Richard Murphy Architects: Buildings and Projects. Richard Murphy Architects Murphy, R. (1993) Querini Stampalia Foundation: Carlo Scarpa. London: Phaidon Press Rasmussen, S.E. (1964) Experiencing Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press Shultz, A-C. (2010) Carlo Scarpa: Layers. London: Axel Menges Unwin, S. (2009) Analysing Architecture. Oxon: Routledge Weston, R. (2008) Material, Form and Architecture. London: Laurence King Publishing Weston, R. et al. (2001) Richard Murphy Architects: Ten Years of Practice. Edinburgh: Fruitmarket Gallery Images Brown, T. Figure 6. Querini Stampalia Foundation[online] Available at: [accessed on 8 January 2012 Else, S. Figures 8 and 9. Own diagrams. Figure 7. Rome Nolli Plan [online] Available at: [accessed 9 January 2012] Figure 10. Fruitmarket Gallery [online] Available at: [accessed on 8 January 2012] Figure 14. [2011] Palazzo Querini Stampalia [online] Available at: [accessed on 8 January 2012] Lewis, E. Figure 1. Royal Ontario Museum [online] Available at: [accessed on 8 January 2012]

19 Morgan, P [2008] Figures 13 and 19 Querini Stampalia Bridge [online] Available at: [accessed on 8 January 2012] Murphy, R. [1993] Figures 12 and 18. Querini Stampalia Site Plan/ Entrance Hall Section.[book] Murphy, R et al. Figures 2, 11, 16, 17, and 21 [online] Available at: =list1-50163&list_index=18&add_cat=For the Arts [accessed on 8 January 2012] Shultz, A-C.[2010] Figures 5 and 15. Section diagram through hallway/ Stone Cladding [book] Weston, R et al. [2001] Figures 3, 4 and 20. DCA Sectional Perspective/ Main stairwell/ DCA foyer [book].

20 Bibliography A.J. Murphy’s Magic (1999) The Architects’ Journal. (April) pp. 26 – 33 A.J. Religious Conversion: Murphy’s Arts in Church. (2004) The Architects’ Journal. (May) pp. 28 – 35 Albertini, B. and Bagnoli, S. (1988) Carlo Scarpa: Architecture in Details. Cambridge: MIT Press Arnold, D. et al. (2006) Rethinking Architectural Historiography. Oxon: Routledge Canizaro, V.B. (2007) Architectural Regionalism: Collected Writings on Place, Identity, Modernity and Traditon. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Carr, R. (1999) Vertical Hold. Building Design. (March) Cousins, M. (1992) Fruitmarket Refurbishment. The Architects’ Journal. (October) pp. 11 – 13 Crippa, M.A. (1986) Carlo Scarpa: Theory, Design, Projects. Cambridge: MIT Press Dal Co, F. and Mazzariol, G. (1987) Carlo Scarpa: The Complete Works. Great Britain: The Architectural Press Foster, H. (1990) Postmodern Culture. London: Pluto Press Frampton, K. (1996) Studies in Tectonic Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press Goy, R.J (1989) Venetian Vernacular Architecture: Traditional Housing in the Venetian Lagoon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Heath, K. Wm. (2009) Vernacular Architecture and Regional Design: Cultural Process and Environmental Response. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd. Holl, S. (2009) Urbanisms: Working with Doubt. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Kirk, T. (2005) Architecture of Modern Italy, Volume 2: Visions of Utopia. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Leatherbarrow, D. (2009) Architecture Oriented Otherwise. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Lotus International. Sustainability. Issue 140. Mallgrave, H.F. and Goodman, D. (2011) An Introduction to Architectural Theory: 1968 – Present. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Massey, D. (1999) Space, Place and Gender. Minneapolis, US: University of Minnesota Press Murphy, R. (1997) The Work of Richard Murphy Architects: Buildings and Projects. Richard Murphy Architects Murphy, R. (1993) Querini Stampalia Foundation: Carlo Scarpa. London: Phaidon Press Nesbitt, K. (1996) Theorising a New Agenda for Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press Prospect. Centre for an Art Lover (1999) Prospect. (Summer) pp. 18 – 22 Rasmussen, S.E. (1964) Experiencing Architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press Robson, D. (2009) Tropical Ambassador. The Architectural Review. (March) pp. 62 – 71 Shultz, A-C. (2010) Carlo Scarpa: Layers. London: Axel Menges

21 Unwin, S. (2009) Analysing Architecture. Oxon: Routledge Van der Laan, D.H. (1983) Architectonic Space. The Netherlands: E.J Brill Weston, R. (2008) Material, Form and Architecture. London: Laurence King Publishing Weston, R. et al. (2001) Richard Murphy Architects: Ten Years of Practice. Edinburgh: Fruitmarket Gallery Wilson, P. (1999) Culture Club. The Architectural Review. (August) pp. 38 – 43

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.