Venezuela Biennale Pavilion
30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy
Carlo Scarpa (1953-56)
Many people visiting the Venice Biennale will walk past this building without taking much notice of its architecture. Those who take notice may have no idea that this is an early Carlo Scarpa design and one of the few that is a new freestanding building rather than a renovation, alteration or addition to a historic building.
In 1951 the Venice City Council allowed the Biennale an expansion within the Giardini to allow for new pavilions for countries that did not yet have exhibition spaces. A former student of Scarpa’s, Graziano Gasparini, an Italian painter and architect who had moved to Venezuela, suggested that Carlo Scarpa should be engaged as architect.
The site is small and constrained between the Swiss and Russian pavilions, and contains three substantial trees, however the design manages to incorporate these and create a significant, robust building with minimal materials.
The building is comprised of two rectangular concrete volumes, one larger than the other, and slightly offset from each other.
The off-form concrete accepts the limited means for construction, celebrates the layering of the formwork and texture of the pebbles within.
The entry stairs are of the same pebbled concrete but there is a sensitivity in the insertion of timber treads, along with the carefully placed vine.
The entry spaces are a part of the overall composition, with a concrete roof over one section and a slightly lower lightweight roof that leads from the courtyard to the internal volumes.
The supports for this roof are beautifully detailed in typical Scarpa fashion, with a number of other details scattered around the building and site.
High up, the internal volumes have large strips of glass to offer views of the sky and trees outside, and draw natural light into the building without interrupting the exhibition walls.
It is apparent that the Venezuelan economic situation has not allowed for appropriate maintenance and upkeep of the building and we can only hope that a suitable benefactor may be found before this gem deteriorates to much further.
In the meantime, if you’re at the Venice Biennale (Art or Architecture) then stop, admire and study this building – and learn from the juxtaposition of forms, volumes, materials and details.
There is a great description of the building in the Carlo Scarpa Publication by Robert McCarter (Phaidon, 2013).
Place: Venezuela Biennale Pavilion
Architect: Carlo Scarpa
Photographer: Stephen Varady
Additional Information: Divisare (3 Nov 2016)
Map: Venezuela Biennale Pavilion
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2 thoughts on “Venice: Venezuela Biennale Pavilion (Italy)”
Great article Stephen!
thanks for letting know about this,
My pleasure Chris. Lots more to see, including more Scarpa, elsewhere on the website. sv