Carlo Scarpa’s Layers of Architecture

A dissertation inspired by Carlo Scarpa’s complex architecture of layering materials has turned into a book for Anne-Catrin Schultz.

More than that, it’s launched her career.

“I did my dissertation at the University of Stuttgart, then was invited to MIT to research the concept of layering by Scarpa,” the German native says.

She taught for a time in California, then came back east for a job at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. What’s triggered it all is a desire to look at layering in architecture for what it is. “I’m not trying to come up with a theory –  but it’s an attempt to find a way to explain the meaning of layering,” she says.

In Scarpa’s case, that means looking at how he worked with the old and new, bringing together historic spaces, adding elements to them, and creating spaces that reverberate.

“It was like trying to decode poetry,” she says. “What’s fascinating is that all these things can be read simultaneously.”

Her research led her to archives of lectures the Italian architect had delivered – he wrote very little for publication – and to the artisans and professionals he worked with, especially in Venice, where she spent a year.

“This is an attempt to read the stories known through the Italian culture and knowing his regional background,” she says. “I interviewed all the craftspeople he worked with – there was all that regional influence, and he was incredibly well-informed.”

And she made a number of trips there to study the buildings and meet the former collaborators and scholars who were willing to talk about how he worked. At the Querini Stampalia Foundation, she was asked to do a study of a space in its library – one that had been flooded and which Scarpa had made inviting to the community.

“The strategy was new surfaces, to create a pavement that was a basin – a mosaic. This new layer moved through the entire ground floor to exhibit space to garden space – a courtyard and a water basin,” she says. “It was a material layer articulating the story of Venice with a small canal – its material layering of walls and floors and Venice being discussed – through the use of layering.”

Carlo Scarpa: Layers is available here.

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