Carlo Scarpa: Architecture and Design

By Guido Beltramini. Edited by Italo Zannier. Photographs by Gianantonio Battistella and Vaclav Sedy.

The 20th century Italian master Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978) emerged from a Venetian tradition that merged art, craft, intellect, and, especially in his case, architecture. Over his varied career, which is the subject of this book on the centenary of his birth, Scarpa designed 58 structures, furniture, and Murano glass for the elite house of Venini. Scarpa’s respect for craft, materials, and decoration, which played out in iron, marble, wood, and copper, may inspire architects seeking to do the same today. A preoccupation with light and detail found lyrical expression in concrete. Scarpa’s fascination with the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright is well known. Ultimately, the Italian expressed his own instincts in such iconoclastic buildings as the 1973 Banca Populare di Verona, with a concrete façade punctuated with portholes. Among the works detailed in exceptional and unusual photographs is the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona, which Scarpa worked on intermittently from 1958 to 1975. Of his iconic Brion-Vega Cemetery tomb, a monument to post-modern eclecticism, Scarpa wrote that the austere work “will get better over time,” providing a garden for the deceased, rather than “shoe boxes.” Scarpa, who died in 1978 after a fall along a stairway in a Japanese temple, is buried in the cemetery. Photos in the book make clear that Scarpa’s works may need reviving, lest they too pass away.

Rizzoli; $65

 

Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure

Edited by Elisabeth Sussman Essays by Briony Fer, Tina Kukielski, Gwendolyn Owens, Spyros Papapetros, Christian Scheidemann, Joan Simon, and Elisabeth Sussman.

The artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) trained as an architect, which may be why he was so skillful at turning crumbling urban landscapes into political and social indictments. The book, which accompanies a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, traces his too-brief career as a radical “anarchitect.” The son of Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta and godson of Marcel Duchamp, Matta-Clark created pointed commentaries on the unsatisfying drift of the American dream. A 1970s series of black-and-white photos of the devastated Bronx mocked the emerging neocons of design, who were heading deep into classicism. Matta-Clark bought and photographed forlorn plots of land for a commentary called “Fake Estates.” Temporary projects were created with a power saw and then demolished. The artist’s life was also short: He died from cancer at the age of 35. His work remains a call to conscience.

Yale University Press; $50