Carlo Scarpa and the restoration of the ground floor of Palazzo Querini Stampalia in Venice
Palace Querini Stampalia close to Campo Santa Maria Formosa was bequeathed by the last Querini at the end of the 19th Century to the city of Venice, ‘ad uso pubblico’ for public use.
The first floor is the seat of a library (the Cabinet of Lectures ‘Gabinetto di Lettura’ that was what in his will the last Querini wished the first floor to become) and the second is the seat of a museum-house, with pieces of furniture, paintings by Bellini and Longhi, Murano glass chandeliers and a Sèvres porcelain service.
The Querini Stampalia foundation and its director Manlio Dazzi asked 1949 the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa to restore the rooms on the ground floor that was frequently flooded and also rearrange the courtyard into the small garden.
Only 10 years later did the real collaboration between this brilliant Venetian architect and the Foundation Querini Stampalia start, Gino Luzzato was the President and Giuseppe Mazzariol the new Director.
Carlo Scarpa had already collaborated with the Murano glass company Venini, restored Ca’ Foscari, planned the Book Pavillon in the Biennale, the temporary exhibition of Bellini in the Doge’s Palace, the new display in the Accademia, the Correr Museum, the Gypsoteque of Canova and the Olivetti Showroom in San Marco just to mention a few.
Carlo Scarpa planned the entry to Palazzo Querini Stampalia over a bridge, a very interesting idea to reach a palace through the window and not the door.
We will not discuss the structure of this lovely light bridge with its for Venice unusual materials neither the coat of arms nor the installations by Kosuth on the façade, but we will step into the first room.
Entrance and floor
The first feeling is that an invisible hand has spread on the floor small precious stones from a sack.
These are pieces of marble that were apparently randomly set together, but fit and match perfectly. A precious carpet made out of 4 colours, white, orange, red and black, like a checkboard with square, rectangular and L-shaped pieces.
The floor seems to vibrate and sparkle.
Like all carpets also this carpet has a beginning and an end, no fringes, but a frame made out of white Istrian stone like the majority of Venetian bridges and windows.
Then I look towards the edge and I notice I am part of the carpet, I am walking on a raised platform, the water could come in, surround me. The edges of the carpet are raised and turned towards the outside.
The walls are covered with rectangular panels, plaster panels, hanging like paintings. They cover the walls, however not completely. Each panel is spaced out, through iron elements and has a black edge, like a sort of frame to a painting. Parts of the ancient walls can be easily detected in between.
Layering of floor, walls and ceiling are noticeable and all transitions are clearly evident.
On the right hand side we can spot the ancient land entrance into the palace.
The ceiling is low, formed by panels, its red plaster giving a special warmth.
The skilful restoration by Carlo Scarpa leads us step by step. We follow unaware his invisible hand that guides us in an unmatched way.
Straight on we would reach the staircase with its specially covered steps, railing, panels not following the steps and windows.
I look left, towards the arch that leads into the next room with the double water-gates.
I am awed. The Renaissance arch is enhanced by Scarpa’s modern one in cement.
What a virtuosity! What a maestro!
The passage from the old to the new is harmonious, seamless; the new does not take anything away from the old. Scarpa’s attention to details and materials of this intricate and intriguing reconstruction are unrivalled.
Would you like to visit in detail also the other rooms such as the Luzzato, the Garden and the museum upstairs?
I would be pleased to guide you.