Selfmade Experts: Michelle Elie on the Architect Carlo Scarpa

Collage Michelle Elie

In 2012 I visited Berlin to present a seminar at 032c’s workshop series. While the installation was being built I took a break and cycled over to the ‘Straße des 17. Juni’ flea market. I browsed a while before I spotted two Bakelit plastic bracelets that I immediately snatched up. They weren’t particularly special in terms of color or form, but I liked them because they had a certain lightness to them and seemed to capture my mood so well. I wasn’t aware that these two small, black-and-white squares with a hole in the middle would only be the beginning of my passion for the architect Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978). He once said: “If the architecture is any good, a person who looks and listens will feel its good effect without noticing.” This seems to be true not just in architecture, but also in life.

My research on him only intensified when I stumbled upon the Brion Cemetery in Italy. The whole family of the eponymous business is buried there and Scarpa managed to finish the project before his death, despite the multiple modifications it required. His design approach is made up of all that fascinates me: It is incredibly rich in detail, no matter if viewed from afar or close up. His work is characterized by the way he plays with different shapes and the round, soft windows effortlessly align with the severity of the concrete and the building’s hard edges. Cool colors dominate the spectrum, though often interspersed with with warm gold tones. Scarpa never trained as an architect, he simply produced the blueprints needed before the actual construction. Before he finally dared to build his own houses without an official license he worked with Murano glass for 15 years. His work was inspired by Venetian and Japanese culture and he enjoyed detailing the particularities of the surrounding landscape. His curiosity impressed and inspired my designs for the current AW15/16 Prism collection, as well as beyond.

Collage: Julia Zierer

Translation: Liv Fleischhacker