Carlo Scarpa to Japan

9 Nov 2016 — 26 Feb 2017 at Maxxi in Rome, Italy

12 DECEMBER 2016
Carlo Scarpa to Japan, Exhibition view. Courtesy of MAXXI
Carlo Scarpa to Japan, Exhibition view. Courtesy of MAXXI

Many and well–rooted are the reasons of Carlo Scarpa’s bond to Japan, to its architectural culture, its literature, its historical, cultural and construction traditions. The materials kept in the Scarpa Archive of the MAXXI Architecture Collections clearly reveal the varied nature of the relations between this Venetian architect and the country of the Rising Sun. Although Carlo Scarpa’s first direct contact with Japan took place in 1969, when he visited the country for the first time, he had been interested and strongly attracted to the country for a long time. Scarpa had in fact assimilated a number of aesthetic concepts of Japanese culture during his formation period, through the paintings of Klimt and Mondrian, through Frank Lloyd Wright, Ezra Pound’s Orientalist works, and the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice. In the architect’s valuable library, there are many volumes that may have been a direct or indirect source of Japanese inspiration. The collection of the «Japan Design House» magazine, years 1961 to 1969, contained in the Carlo Scarpa Archive is a result of his deep interest in Japanese contemporary architectural culture. The number of books on Japan in Scarpa’s library obviously increased shortly before his 1969 journey, for which the architect prepared himself with a rich literary baggage, including Ore giapponesi by Fosco Maraini and Taccuino giapponese by Mario Gromo, which became actual travel guides that he filled with notes.

The repercussion of Japanese culture on Scarpa’s creative activity is certainly obvious, but it is the natural outcome of a system of relationships, suggestions, and more complex studies. In fact, more than an actual influence of Japanese architecture on Scarpa’s work, we should perhaps speak of a consonance, a sharing of certain formal, aesthetic and spatial aspects, that in Sacrpa’s creative activity blends with his ability to acquire new aesthetic stimuli, transferring them into a modern context in an original way, under the banner of balance and harmony. Regarding his architectural projects, the Oriental suggestions, while always present in his work, appear to be direct references only after his 1969 journey.

It is no surprise that the project in which the effect of the Japanese experience is more explicitly and fully manifested, is the Brion Tomb, and specifically in the Pavilion on water, designed by Scarpa immediately after his return from Japan, when his eyes still held the memory of buildings where water is the integrating element. It was during his second trip to Japan that, in consequence of an accident, Carlo Scarpa died on November 28th 1978, making his relationship with this country even tighter; a country he loved very much and which always rewarded him with an undisputed critical acclaim of all his work.