Before he designed a modern showroom for Olivetti, introducing daylight & openness to a dark corner of Piazza S. Marco with forms & textures commensurate with Venice’s timeworn dignity; before he renovated the Museo di Castelvecchio, bringing a 14th century building into the present with all its gravitas intact; before he even began his career-long reconciling of disparate teachings from Frank Lloyd Wright to Le Corbusier, Italian architect Carlo Scarpa worked in glass. For the venerable Venini glass company the young postgraduate Scarpa served as artistic consultant from 1932-1947, launching many of the innovative ideas he would later master in his design of buildings: elevating humble materials by their thoughtful treatment, acknowledging history’s patina without mimicking its forms, advancing new techniques by inquiring of existing processes.
The Met has a big jewel-box of a show focusing on this work. With over 300 small, well-lit, works, spanning 15 years of invention, study and delight, it’s a revelation of a beloved hero’s early development. That he was able to take the lessons of delicate, translucent, vessels up to the scale of sturdy, inhabitable spaces, is perhaps what Louis Kahn meant when he praised Scarpa’s “sense of the wholeness of inseparable elements”. The “Beauty, Art and Wonder” Kahn recognized are all on exhibit here. Through March 2 2014.