Carlo Scarpa: Venini 1932-1947

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Coinciding with the events of Venice Architecture BiennaleVenini presents an exhibition dedicated to its famous collaboration with Carlo Scarpa, artistic director of the glassware firm from 1932 to 1947.

The exhibition of 300 pieces (large and small vases, containers, dishes and more) demonstrates how the direct relationship between the architect and the craftsmen resulted in little glass masterpieces. Alongside unique pieces, prototypes and mass-produced items, the exhibit showcases original drawings and rare photos from Venini’s historical archives.

Carlo Scarpa was intimately involved with production techniques and spent many hours in direct contact with the artisans on the island of Murano, where the best Venetian glass has been made since the Middle Ages, trying to understand the secrets of glassmaking, develop new techniques and encourage more extreme and deeper experimentation.

The exhibition is divided into areas defined by production technique. Among the most famous works are vases made using the “a bollicine” technique that fills the glass with tiny bubbles that can even draw ornamental motifs. Scarpa was also able to give new life to traditional techniques, such as the “filigrana” (watermark) and the very well known “murrina,” an icon of Venetian craftsmanship. The unexpected colors of the pieces on display are sometimes enhanced by amazing surface effects, giving the look and feel of mother of pearl, ice, smoke or metal. The consistency of the different masterpieces is also a constant surprise, since the exhibition shifts from thick structures to incredibly light and volatile wonders.

The exhibition is curated by Marino Barovier and will be open until 29 November 2012 at Le Stanze del Vetro at the Giorgio Cini Foundation.

Negozio Olivetti

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Widely recognized for their Ettore Sottsass-designed Valentine typewriter, one of Olivetti’s less celebrated design accomplishments is the company’s Venice showroom and store. Architect Carlo Scarpa spent two years conceiving the space with a focus on transparencies and materials after commissioned by Adriano Olivetti in the late ’50s, leading to what became one of the most significant architectural achievements of the 20th century.

Located on Venice’s famed Piazza San Marco, 14 years ago the Olivetti store was turned into a novelty shop. Last year the space’s owner, Assicurazioni Generali, began working with the Venice Heritage office to painstakingly refurbish the shop to its original appearance, reinstating authentic materials, forms and color schemes. They also turned to the glorious Italian cultural institution, FAI to protect and manage the building, which is filled with a unique collection of typewriters and calculators donated by Olivetti that’s now open to the public for regular visits along with the rest of the space.

One focal point of the renovated store is Alberto Viani’s “Nudo al Sole”—a sculpture that the architect put above a black Belgian marble plinth covered by water. To achieve the right amount of light, Scarpa increased the number of windows, illuminating the irregularly-shaped mosaic glass floor which changes color in each area. The main entrance is red, the central section almost white, the side entrance blue and the rear yellow.

The showroom-slash-museum provides exhaustive testimony to Scarpa’s construction expertise, taste and sophistication in the dialogue between old and new—skills that enabled him to design a classic in a city of architectural icons. The Olivetti Store is made of savvy construction details, balanced contrasts and constant maniacal research into lettering and texts, the results of which were never so eloquent as they are in the Olivetti Showroom.