A 20th-century icon in St Mark's Square
Entrusted to FAI on a loan-for-use basis by Generali Italia in 2011
The elegant intelligence of the great architect Carlo Scarpa lies behind this true masterpiece of 20th-century architecture; after years of neglect, the doors have re-opened to reveal once again its spaces so meticulously designed and crafted my master artisans.
Walking under the colonnades of the Procuratie Vecchie, you come to a small corner premises that, in 1957, Adriano Olivetti identified as the ideal building for a showcase that could transmit the company’s cultural values in a context where modernity and innovation could live together while respecting the time-honoured surroundings. This challenging commission was given to the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, who completely overhauled the dark, narrow, original unit with an open-plan design based on a brilliant, cutting-edge re-organisation of the spaces, in order to re-shape the volumes while making the most of the light and engaging in a dialogue with the decorative elements.
The resulting interior achieves a captivating equilibrium between functionality and style, with at its heart a light-filled space embellished by the Alberto Viani sculpture Nude in the Sun, which welcomes visitors into the showroom. But the true touch of genius is the extraordinary central staircase, seemingly suspended in the void – a bona fide masterpiece of lightness and dynamism. It is a rhythm that also marks out the spaces of the two long galleries on the upper floor, home to a number of small office spaces and to a part of the exhibition of vintage Olivetti typewriters and calculators. Scarpa's gift is also evident in the painstaking choice of materials: Aurisina marble, rosewood, African teak, metals and stone are all found alongside traditional Venetian stucco and mosaics revisited in a modern key. It is a design with great expressive and cultural impact that, after years of neglect, was given back to the city by Assicurazioni Generali, at the urging of FAI, which had flagged up the problem. Having restored the space, Generali entrusted its conservation and enhancement to FAI in 2011.