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    Scarpa Weekend

    By jtwang
    Jun 13, '12 9:09 PM EST

    February 9-11 was a three-day weekend packed with Scarpa. Two of my roommates and I went north to San Vito d'Altivole, Verona, and Venice to see if the real thing is as good as the legends say. A lot of pain and effort was required. It was a cold winter, and we spent quite a bit of time in unheated train stations and unheated train cars. While we were in town, we ducked into a café every hour or so just to warm up. Ultimately, though, the pain was worth it. The projects were amazing. Scarpa's ability with detail and material articulation was so far beyond any of our skills that we were in awe at every project.


    Stop 1: Brion Cemetery

    The Brion Cemetery was a trial to get to. For those who are interested, here are some basic directions:

    • Take a train to Castelfranco Veneto.
    • Find the tourist information office, which is located within the castle walls. They don't open until 10:00 am, I believe. There they will tell you which bus to take to get to the Brion Cemetery.
    • Go to the coffee shop where they sell tickets for the buses. Make sure you get a bus schedule from the TI! They do not run often at all, so check to see what time you need to catch the return bus. They also don't run exactly on time, so be waiting 10 minutes early at the bus stop.
    • Tell the bus driver where you want to go (La Tomba Brion-Vega in San Vito d'Altivole). He will tell you where to get off. Once you are off the bus, look for signs pointing toward the cemetery. San Vito d'Altivole is tiny and you should have no problem finding signs.
    • Follow the signs and you've made it.

    When we went we knew very little about how to get there. We really had to stretch our abilities in Italian. Castelfranco Veneto is small enough that finding English-speakers is rare. (We had each had about 10 hours total of Italian class). Luckily, four years of high school Spanish helped us out tremendously.

    As you approach, the cemetery lies low on the horizon.

    The beautiful entry.

    A fun door to move.

    Signs of decay didn't detract from the project, instead adding a sense of time and history.

    Trademark Scarpa stairs.

    It felt like he considered every single view.

    The tomb of Scarpa himself.

    A fascinating space. It felt bright and open on the inside but looked monumental and heavy from outside.


    Stop 2: Castelvecchio

    After waiting in the shivering cold for a bus that was late, we missed our desired train and took a later one instead. Luckily, we had enough time to get to Castelvecchio before dark. Our professors had told us that Castelvecchio is truly his masterpiece. Now a museum, the project is at a castle that is symbolic of the government and city of Verona. The castle bears the history and marks of centuries. Scarpa's intervention took into careful consideration the political and historical meaning of the various pieces of the castle complex, making it a deeply symbolic project.

    Banco Popolare by Scarpa. On the way to Castelvecchio.

    Castelvecchio's vertical experience is tied together by a heroic statue on a massive concrete pillar.

    The circulation was confusing and complicated and spanned many levels.

    There was a diversity of interior spaces owing to the many different historic layers of the site.

    He carefully articulates edges, sometimes to differentiate old from new.

    The display systems by Scarpa.

    A view from the top of the museum.

    Amazingly enough, the last stair of the museum led back to the very first room where we dropped our bags off. By that point, we had been spun around and taken up and down so many times that we were shocked to see that we were back at the beginning again.


    Stop 3: Venice

    After spending the night at a hostel in Verona, we took an early train to Venice. It was a bitter cold day, but the city was incredible. Carnevale was just beginning, and there were exotic masks and costumes everywhere. The place was packed with tourists, but  the charm of Venice came through anyway. Scarpa was only one of our goals for Venice, but he did not disappoint here either. We saw the Fundazione Querini Stampalia, where Scarpa renovated the first floor spaces.

    The use of the ground plane is very thoughtful.

    It opens directly onto the canal, connecting the interior to the rise and fall of the waters of Venice.

    An incredible door.

    The direct connection to the canal is symbolically reiterated in the interior courtyard where fountain water reminds us of the canal water we just saw.

    The iconic bridge no longer has function; the owners moved the entry to another location and locked this entry.

    After a long, cold day in Venice, punctuated by many visits to warm cafés, we headed back for another overnight ride back to Rome, with four Venetian masks on our persons. What followed was the worst train ride in history. The heat went out at 4 AM, leaving us shivering in a 40 degree train car for two and a half hours. It was one of our worst memories of the semester. Even so, the trip was worth it. The Scarpa projects were amazing and virtuosic, and they inspired me in a way that nothing else had in my life.


    • Beautiful entry! This brings back so many memories of our Scarpa expeditions (Pratt Institute B. Arch,) I wish I'd taken more pictures!

      Jul 12, 12 10:39 am

      Which year did you go? One of our best reviewers was a professor from Pratt.

      Aug 13, 12 11:12 pm
      Anthony Thompson

      Appreciate the practical Brion information. That structure is very high on my bucket list - hope to see it next year. From: a fellow Minnesotan.  :  )

      Aug 13, 13 9:13 pm

      Fascinating how this looks so different from some of the other pictures in books and online. These pictures seem more dreary and real - in a good way because it offers a new perspective on how the buildings appear everyday, where they operate through a more subtle form of beauty.

      Aug 14, 13 12:37 am

      Fantastic photos! Thanks for sharing them!

      Aug 14, 13 1:05 pm
      Norris Architecture

      So glad I found this. Your life changing experience reminds of my own some 30 years ago traveling with the Auburn program.  The thoughtfulness, inventiveness, and the freedom to rethink the mundane is a gift that Carlo Scarpa left us all. It is great to see that it is still appreciated.

      Jan 7, 19 9:31 am

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