Monday, May 04, 2015

Chance encounters

Buildings being what they are, how often is it that you arrive at some masterpiece to find it covered with scaffolding or closed for the day? The answer is, more often than you'd like. So we were disappointed when we drove up to the Costa di Cadore Church high in the Dolomites, which Carlo Scarpa had designed with Edoardo Gellner (Scarpa didn’t take his final exams so he had to work with accredited architects to complete many of his projects), to find it surrounded with go-away tape. There was another couple with cameras standing by the tape, but they weren't tourists. One of them was Guido Pietropoli an Italian architect who had worked closely with Scarpa and is an expert on his work.

All the scaffolding and closed signs we had ever encountered fell away as we listened to Sig. Pietropoli. He talked not only about the church we were all standing in front of, but also Scarpa’s famous Brion Tomb and how he was working on the repair of the concrete work of the Tomb has developed serious problems as one of his current projects.  He discussed the many challenges of strengthening the structure without interfering with Scarpa's aesthetic objectives. Sig. Pietropoli also threw in a few anecdotes. Scarpa was well known for his start late finish early (11 am to 2 am) schedule and there were problems when he came up against the 9 to 5 stickler Gellner in their collaboration to design the Costa di Cadore Church. Their relationship became so fraught that Gellner (who was hosting Scarpa) locked him into his room passing meals in via an outside window until certain drawings were completed. ‘Work” Gellner told him, not sleeping in late, was the way forward.

Weirdly, the next day we were having lunch at a local airfield (don't ask) and at the table was the cousin of one of Scarpa's stoneworkers from Brion and our host had himself worked briefly on the alpine settlement. Throughout the Veneto there are many memories of Carlo Scarpa and his extraordinary body of work.