Near the north-western corner of the Piazza San Marco in Venice is a small corner shop that requires more detailed exploration.
In 1956 Carlo Scarpa won the Olivetti Prize for Architecture and in 1957 Adriano Olivetti engaged him to design the Negrozio Olivetti (Olivetti Store). It was not meant to be a place for sales but was to be more of a ‘business card’ or showroom and exhibition space for Olivetti, expressing the broader design qualities of the company. Scarpa understood the challenge and created a wonderful composition of material and detail that is still a total lesson in design and adaptive re-use, historic intervention, and meticulous detail resolution.
Scarpa’s compositional skills inserted a new concrete façade – with concealed pivoting concrete door – seamlessly into the historic side façade of the existing building. At the entry, there is an intricately detailed portico with retracting metal screens, brass inlaid decorative symbol and heavy pivoting brass framed glazed doors before you even get inside.
The showroom space is 21m long, 5m wide and 4m high into which Scarpa managed to insert a generous 2 storey design of incredible sensitivity, detail and beauty.
The Murano Glass mosaic floor in red (entry), white (showroom), and yellow (office), gently delineates the separate parts of the ground floor, with a small patch of blue under the staircase denoting the entry area from the side.
The staircase itself is one of the most exquisitely designed stairs in the world composed of a series of terrazzo segments placed on top of each other to create a beautiful sculptural composition.
In 2011 the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (a nation-wide, non-profit foundation established in 1975 with a precise objective to safeguard Italy’s artistic and natural heritage), completed an extensive restoration of the Olivetti Showroom, complete with vintage typewriters and calculators donated by Olivetti, bringing to life once again the beauty of this incredibly designed work.
Place: Olivetti Showroom
Architect: Carlo Scarpa on Arch Daily
Restoration: Fondo Ambiente Italiano
Photographer: Stephen Varady
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