With his new book on Carlo Scarpa, Robert McCarter delivers not just an easy-to-understand treatise on the 20th-century master’s work, but a tour guide to some of the best buildings in Venice.
“What I hope it will do is inspire people to go visit the buildings,” the author of Carlo Scarpa says. “The idea is basically: here are a few things to notice and once you notice those, you’re off and running.”
But not too fast. Scarpa’s modernist work in 16th-century Veneitian buildings is a layered approach that asks time of the viewer, since the architect himself worked so slowly to synthesize two styles, 500 years apart.
“He was slow and working in a place where you can’t do anything fast, so he expected you to spend time in his buildings,” he says.
Scarpa, who described himself as a man of Byzantium who came to Venice by way of Greece, worked in the post-war years to create one-of-a-kind, curated rooms for art, in both residences and museums.
“His whole idea about museum design changed the way curators laid the art out, about how the pieces should talk to each other across the room,” he says. “When you enter the room, you enter the conversation – it rewards you to go slow.”
The new book features a complete list of works, and in-depth walk-throughs of 15 key projects like the Central Pavilion in the Giardini of the Venice Bienalle, Fundacion Querini Stampalia, and the Olivetti Showroom in St. Mark’s Square. It also provides the definitive study of Scarpa’s work at the Canova Museum, Castevechhio Museum and Brion Cemetery.
It’s 288 pages, with 350 photographs – and an easy read, something that McCarter thankfully emphasized in earlier books on Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn and Understanding Architecture.
“I’m a practicing architect, and a teaching architect, and I get frustrated at architecture books where you can’t understand the text,” he says. “It needs to be legible to the general public.”
To help us see what Scarpa was working mightily to achieve, McCarter has looked long, hard and carefully at the architect’s complex designs.
“Scarpa’s buildings are like keys that unlock the history of Venice because there are all those layers, those incredibly elegant compositions – and always with a story behind them,” he says. “The buildings are always talking to you.”
And in this book, we can hear – and see – what they’re saying.
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