Review of Carlo Scarpa and Castelvecchio Revisited

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationBook/Film/Article review

Abstract / Description of output

In 1990, the architect Richard Murphy published a book on the Castelvecchio in Verona. In doing so he brought to wider attention the work of its architect Carlo Scarpa. That book unfortunately went out of print, and rather than just produce another edition, Murphy has spent the last few years working on a completely renewed and expanded one. Thankfully, Murphy has not held back in the information he has included, and the resulting 384 pages of architectural study and research, goes beyond just an update.

Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978), worked on the Castelvecchio in two phases from 1957-64, and 1967-75. Given his long involvement in the building, which sits in the middle of his oeuvre, it is clear why this new book has to be so comprehensive. Anything less would be doing him an injustice. Just as Scarpa himself worked closely with the Museum Directors at the time, Murphy has collaborated with the current Director, and those who knew and worked with Scarpa and the Castelvecchio, to ensure all aspects of the process are recorded. This includes many drawings only discovered in the last 25 years.

The book is laid out in an unusual, yet entirely sensible way. It starts with introductions by the author, the current Director of the Castelvecchio, Margherita Bolla and architect and critic, Kenneth Frampton. This gives the reader a clear background into the book and building, setting the scene for what is to come. Murphy then cleverly takes the reader through the building in the sequence a visitor would experience it. This immediately engages you directly with it, and reading through the sections is like having a very knowledgeable tour guide explaining and showing you every last detail that surrounds you. The excellent balance between text and images means that you can choose how you want to explore each area. Given the size of the book, it would be a brave person who reads it cover to cover, but you can indulge your curiosity in each section as you choose. By doing so you peel away the layers of the building and really feel you get into the mind of Scarpa, seeing and understanding his decisions.

The Castelvecchio is such a key building in our understanding of conservation techniques and approaches. As Murphy notes in his section on the importance of Castelvecchio; 'Until Scarpa, architectural energy expended on working within existing buildings was not considered mainstream'. Reading through the decisions that Scarpa made in relation to what to retain and what to remove, clearly explains his paradigm, and helps to understand some of the more controversial moves he made. This book devotes as much to the interior as it does to the exterior, describing in as much detail the internal interventions and decisions. The beautifully reproduced sketches and details really help to dissect how Scarpa designed, and shows his mastery of materials.

Just as Scarpa was instrumental in giving architects a language in which to evolve and develop their design and conservation paradigms, then this book allows the reader to get into the mind of Scarpa, and truly understand and learn from the work of a master. This book will be invaluable to anyone interested or involved in architecture, conservation, interior design, museum and exhibition design. The only downside is that it gives such a in-depth understanding of the building you may feel the need not to actually visit it, which would be a shame, as like this book it is a true masterpiece.
Copies can be bought directly from Breakfast Mission Publishing
Original languageEnglish
VolumeSpring 2018
Specialist publicationRIAS Quarterly
PublisherThe Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Review of Carlo Scarpa and Castelvecchio Revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this