Architecture, Design, Travel

More Scarpa in Venice


[Ian Macready]
The beautiful stone lettering outside the Olivetti Showroom

There are still a couple of months to check out the Venice Biennale this year – it finishes on November 22nd.  One small unlikely work of art (or design or architecture whichever you prefer) , is the old and unused ticket booth from 1952 designed for the 26th edition (yes, the Venice Biennale is that old – it began in 1895) by Carlo Scarpa, that is just a few metres away from where you currently buy your tickets. It’s easy to miss but it’s worth the detour. It’s a small and transparent piece of circular architecture with a concrete base and an almond shaped iron framed canopy of sail cloth, held up by three cross shaped uprights encased in wood. It’s a little slice of perfection and just a hint of some of the other Scarpa interventions in his home town. An obvious other detour is the Querini Stampalia, one of his master works which we have written about previously.

But if you can wade through the crowds in St. Mark’s Square you’ll be well rewarded by the small former Olivetti Showroom he designed in 1956 which is now restored as a small museum to his work and the products of Olivetti. Scarpa had just scooped the National Olivetti Architecture award, which then lead to this commission to turn an unpromising long and narrow space on one of the world’s most famous squares, with many structural problems into this tour de force of detailing and material use. It’s unbelievable now that for nearly a decade from the late 90s this was just an ordinary souvenir shop, after Olivetti had closed it down in 1997. Inside it is the perfect mix of old Venetian craft techniques from different coloured zones of exquisite Murano terrazzo tiling to palisander and teak fret work, Venetian plaster walls alongside the new machinery of Olivetti, which Scarpa displayed on elegantly suspended wooden shelves, so that there are no visual obstructions within the space.  In the entrance hall is the abstract sculpture by Albert Vianni placed over a black marble pool and further back is the riserless marble staircase to take you up to the mezzanine level.

Just got to get back to make it to the Brion Family Cemetery, which is still on the Viewport bucket list.

The side view of the ticket booth with its circular concrete base
The front view
The canopy roof is made from an iron and wooden frame with sail cloth
The very fine turnstile
The pivoting stone doorway leading into the showroom
The sculpture by Alberto Viano over its shallow black marble pool
The riserless marble steps
The view of the long narrow space wtih its teak ceiling and fluorescent lighting behind satin glass strips
The staircase from above
The teak panels and fret work through the almond shaped windows that over look the square
The beautiful suspended trays to display the Olivetti typewriters
The coloured terrazzo tiles to resemble an art work by Paul Klee
The water feature to feed water into the marble pool
The view from the back of the ground floor
Another Scarppa intervention in town: the entrance to the University's Philosophy Department
Oh and just to prove that we did in fact look at some of the art work during the Biennale - a bit of Shigeru Ban