Memoirs of Adriano
(and Carlo too)
“A business card in St. Mark’s Square”—that is what Adriano Olivetti asked of Carlo Scarpa, and his request was satisfied with an architecture which defied time in terms of ideation and the sheer caliber of its execution. Carlo Scarpa’s Olivetti is a gift of timeless beauty, of colors, materials and a Venetianity that makes no concession to the vernacular. The execution took a couple of years and Adriano became impatient, then—after a meeting at Caffè Quadri with Giorgio Soavi and Scarpa—he understood, and being the visionary he was, gave free rein to the architect.
Surviving a junk merchant who rented it for too much time, the store was reborn after a careful restoration. Now from the Procuratie Vecchie porticos this ineffable space radiates a dream of a tradition for modern architecture.
Venice could have walked down the path in search of a contemporary vision of Scarpa’s architecture but instead she pursued the currency of the time rather than the timelessness of gold. The Professional Association of Architects of the (not very) Serenissima pressed charges against Scarpa for abuse of profession—he did not have a degree, as neither did Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier—but fortunately he came out the winner and was able to present us with the great works he kept designing until 1978.
Saddened by being reported by his IUAV students, he left Venice, moved to Asolo and then again to Vicenza at the side of Andrea Palladio. During the last ten years of Scarpa’s life I had the privilege of being his pupil and collaborator. One day I enquired about the secret of Olivetti’s eternal youth. Scarpa replied: “I believe Olivetti was hard and true.”
About Guido Pietropoli
Guido Pietropoli studied architecture at the University Institute of Venice. He worked with Atelier Le Corbusier on the Venice Hospital, and, until 1978, with the legendary Carlo Scarpa. An architect for 40 years, he lives in the Veneto where he studies and writes about the Venetian maestro Scarpa.