The profusion of details in the garden includes concrete walls trimmed in glittering tiles.
The Querini occupies the former palazzo of one of the city’s long-defunct aristocratic families.
Wonders do not cease there. Adjacent to his galleries, Scarpa created a garden that takes his uncanny organicism a step further, with concrete walls trimmed in glittering tiles running alongside pools and fountains fed by delicate stone and bronze sluices with patinated finishes. As before, the plan is more or less inexplicable, a sequence of stairs leading to nowhere, little parapets that either dead-end in hedges or that might be understood as steps themselves, leading up to the green un-manicured lawn at the centre. It is here—between the Renaissance spolia and the ivy-covered wall, walking on the curiously quarter note-shaped pavers— that Scarpa really sinks his hook in: the profusion of details, the twists and turns of the procession, make the visitor feel like some absurd detective, on the trail of a vast and unknowable case. Every time another minute discovery pops into view, there’s a ping of pleasure. String enough of these together, and addiction will take hold.
There’s nothing wrong with being a Scarpa-holic per se—except, of course, when there is. “All influence is immoral,” as Oscar Wilde put it, since the influenced party “does not think his natural thoughts, or burn with his natural passions.” Though relatively obscure in his own lifetime, Scarpa has acquired a cult status in death that not only would have offended him personally but that has become oppressive to many of his latter-day successors in Italy: evidence the parody campaign mounted during the 2019 Art Biennale by one local culturato, who printed up adhesive messages boasting that their design gallery space was “100% Carlo Scarpa Free”. The architect’s legions of devotees are not hard to find, including at the Querini Stampalia, where subsequent renovations (the ground-floor library and an interior service volume) were undertaken in a Scarpa-esque mode by a pair of admirers, Valeriano Pastor and Mario Botta; both, in fact, are extremely accomplished, though they suffer by proximity to the source material. And therein is the danger of catchy architecture: the looming prospect that, in the middle of humming an original tune, one will inadvertently slip into the familiar chorus, repeating phrases that have already worked such deep grooves into the brain. To appreciate Scarpa’s originality, it is almost necessary to forget him.