All of Carlo Scarpa’s work is special, but this project is an exceptional example of both the sensitivity and the bravura of Scarpa.
The Querini family was one of the oldest families in Venice, and in 1869 Count Giovanni Querini Stampalia bequeathed the building to the City of Venice, to be used as a public library and art gallery.
In 1949 Carlo Scarpa was commissioned by Manlio Dazzi, Querini Stampalia Foundation President, to redesign the interior and garden for a more public use, but Scarpa didn’t really begin work until 1959 under the management of Giuseppe Mazzariol, with the completed project opening on 26 June 1963.
The Foundation wished to use the ground floor for exhibitions, functions and cultural events, but it had remained unused due to frequent flooding. Scarpa stripped away years of additions, opened up the spaces leading from the canal to the garden, added a new stabilising concrete structure and inserted a series of beautifully detailed new elements tying the entire composition together.
A new bridge of steel, brass and timber leads to a new entrance door Scarpa created from an existing window opening. Inside a red, pink, white and black stone tiled pattern (inspired by Joseph Albers) connects with adjoining spaces.
From here, a concrete path with low walls acts as a dam for floodwaters up to a certain height, with sculptured concrete stairs leading down to the canals edge. The new minimalist concrete arches echo and enfold the earlier historic ones while framing views to the spaces beyond, with every element sensitively and richly layered with details.
The exhibition space with its robust concrete floor, travertine wall panels, intricate brass inlays and light fittings, was then designed by Scarpa to accept any spillage of floodwaters, eventually expelling it to the drainage in the rear garden.
The garden continues Scarpa’s explorations in concrete, stone and detail. The exhibition space floor extends outside as a courtyard stepping up to a grassed platform with high vine-covered brick walls on two sides and a Scarpa designed folded concrete wall on the third. This wall contains openings towards the cafe and a gold, black and white Murano glass mosaic tile inlay, sitting in counterpoint to a sculpted bronze and mosaic tile lily pond.
This is a true sensory architectural experience.
Place: Querini Stampalia
Architect: Carlo Scarpa (Arch Daily)
Photographer: Stephen Varady
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