Each week during the spring semester I teach for a day a week at Oxford Brookes University on the International Architectural Regeneration and Development (IARD) Diploma specialism. The course deals with issues of building re-use, conservation and new development within the inherited built environment. Last week we watched a great documentary about the work of Carlo Scarpa presented by architect Richard Murphy. After the documentary I summed up what I thought some of the lessons that could be learnt from the work of Scarpa and applied to the student’s work in the studio. I was also able to draw upon my experience of visiting a number of his buildings, including the Castelvechio, the Querini Stampalia Palace and Olivetti Showroom, on the field trip which I took 10 years ago when I was studying on the same course.
The list below is by no means exhaustive but hopefully begins to highlight some of the attributes that make the work of Scarpa, and inparticular his work with existing buildings, so interesting, unique and exciting.
1. To get the best results it is important to work with those who are involved the the construction of the building. Scarpa had a love of craft and the process of making, not just an interest in the finished product.
2. The designer should think carefully about the connection between different materials and how they join each other.
3. Scarpa made no pretense to design interventions ‘in keeping’ with the existing buildings which results in a lack of bogus reconstruction. He had a belief that contemporary interventions will become part of the history of a building.
4. There is a connection between art and architecture. Scarpa would take inspiration from the work of artists even though the art seemingly is unconnected to the building or place, for example Mondrian or Rothko. (Note: I found this interesting as this would go against how I would usually teach with a view that inspiration of this type should have a contextual connection to the project.)
5. It is important to observe the world around you. Everywhere you look there are ideas that can be reused and re-appropriated.
6. The designer needs to be aware of the importance of the ‘feel’ of materials and how they can help to lead a user through the building. The texture of materials that can be touched are particularly important.
7. There should be a clear reading of what is new and old. This can be acheived through material choices, the way the materials are manufactured, physical separation or combinations of these qualities.
8. The strict control of light heightens the experience of the building and its materials. Scarpa talked of windows “catching fragments of the sky”. The designer should think about the placement of windows and how they relate to what is around. Sometimes a controlled view says more than an expansive one.
9. The first idea is not always the best, some ideas emerge more slowly through investigation. This can lead to thousands of drawings and sketches.
10. It is important to have supportive clients… although of course it is not always possible to achieve this.
Do you agree or disagree with any of these points or have a missed out anything important? Please let me know by making a comment below.
This photo pool on Flickr has some good images of Scarpa projects – http://www.flickr.com/groups/scarpa-c/