Carlo Scarpa was born in Venice in 1906. Much of his early childhood was spent in Vicenza, where his family relocated when he was 2 years old. After his mother's death when he was 13, he, his father and brother moved back to Venice. Carlo attended the Academy of Fine Arts where he focused on architectural studies. Graduated from the Accademia in Venice, with the title of Professor of Architecture, he apprenticed with the architect Francesco Rinaldo.
However, Scarpa refused to sit the pro forma professional exam administrated by the Italian Government after World War II. As a consequence, he was not permitted to practice architecture without associating with an architect (he was once accused, but was exonerated, of practicing architecture without a license). Hence, those who worked with him, his clients, associates, craftspersons, called him "Professor", rather than "architect".
He dedicated himself to university lecturing which, in different posts, he continued until 1977. He made a name for himself after the second World War with prestigious productions, amongst which in Venice: the Paul Klee exhibition for the XXIV Biennial Exhibition, the Art Book Pavilion (1950), the Italy Pavilion at the XXVI Biennial Exhibition.
He started collaborating with Venini in 1932 and, acting as artistic director until 1946, he designed objects d’art and lamps. He has left an extremely important mark in both the designs of models and research into the most sophisticated techniques.
His architecture is deeply sensitive to the changes of time, from seasons to history, rooted in a sensuous material imagination. He was Mario Botta's thesis adviser along with Giuseppe Mazzariol; the latter was the Director of the Fondazione Querini Stampalia when Scarpa completed his renovation and garden for that institution. Scarpa taught drawing and Interior Decoration at the "Istituto universitario di architettura di Venezia" from the late 1940s until his death. While most of his built work is located in the Veneto, he made designs of landscapes, gardens, and buildings, for other regions of Italy as well as Canada, the United States, Saudi Arabia, France and Switzerland. His name has 11 letters and this is used repeatedly in his architecture.
At the time of his death in 1978 at the age of 72, Carlo Scarpa was at the height of his fame and influence. His buildings and projects were being studied by architects and students throughout the world, and his decorative style had become a model for architects wishing to revive craft and luscious materials in the contemporary manner. Yet Carlo Scarpa remains an enigmatic character in the history of modern architecture and design. His work does not submit easily to explanation and analysis, despite attempts by numerous architects and historians, nor is it particularly photogenic.
More than 90 years ago, in 1921, Paolo Venini, a Milanese lawyer, and Giacomo Cappellin, a Venetian antique dealer, founded Cappellin Venini & C.
The painter Vittorio Zecchin was then artistic director and laid the basis on which the company is still founded today: reinterpretation of traditional schemes, openness towards new artistic trends and high manufacturing skills. He was able to reach all of this thanks to the glass masters of Murano island.
Unfortunately, after a few years the company was split in two. The company Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Venini & C. was therefore founded, with Napoleone Martinuzzi as artistic director. He was one of the most important and influential people in the whole artistic world of glass.
During the first years Martinuzzi followed his predecessor’s guidelines, and this is why their works are hard to tell apart. The first signs of a change could be seen during the exhibition in Monza in 1927 where Venini exhibited pieces with different decorative elements such as coloured glass filaments. The following year Martinuzzi brought innovation into the glass world with the "pulegoso" glass. It is characterised by thousands of air bubbles which make it look opaque.
He was able to create majestic works thanks to his passion and talent for sculpture. Among these we find the great fountain for the Quadriennale in Rome and Josephine Baker’s famous statue.
Paolo Venini started to play an important role, as he had learnt a lot about glass. Still, he preferred to somebody else to be Artistic Director, such as Tommaso Buzzi, Napoleone Martinuzzi's successor. Meanwhile, some of the most important artists started to work with Venini. Among them were Carlo Scarpa and Gio Ponti.
In 1940 Carlo Scarpa and Paolo Venini presented some new techniques, such as Battuti, Tessuti, Granulari and Murrine. At the Biennale in Venice and the Triennale in Milan.
During World War II the company did not lose its grip. Indeed, during the Biennale in 1942, Venini had the only exhibition which contained innovative shapes and colours.
Immediately after World War II the situation was very complicated and all the companies in Murano didn’t know whether to produce new designs or concentrate the production on classical shapes.
Venini’s answer to the market came in 1948 during the Venice Biennale, where the firm launched some new works by a young artist from Padua: Fulvio Bianconi.
The set piece of his collection were the twelve characters of the Commedia dell’Arte. Three years later Venini launched, still with Bianconi, some new collections employing the "pezzati", "fasce" and "inclusion", something really particular which will leave an important mark in Venini’s history and in the island of Murano.
From that moment on, a lot of famous architects, designers and artists wanted to work with Venini: Eugene Barman, Ken Scott, Banfi, Belgiojoso, Peressuti and Rogers.
Paolo Venini died on July 22nd, 1959 in Venice. His son-in-law, Ludovico Diaz De Santillan, who was working with him since a few years, became the new CEO of the company. During those years Venini collaborated with Tobia Scarpa (son of Carlo), Toni Zuccheri and Tapio Wirkkala.
In 1972 a fire broke out in the factory and many samples and prototypes, including original drawings, were destroyed. Only a few of them were saved.
In the following years Laura, Ludovico’s daughter, managed the company. During the 80’s Venini started to work with very famous artists and designers such as Owe Thorssen, Brigitta Karlsson and Tina Aufiero. In the mid 80’s Gardini and Ferruzzi bought out Venini, and they started to work with Alessandro Mendini, one of the most important architects worldwide. In the 90’s Ettore Sottssass began to collaborate with Venini as well.
Moreover, Venini worked with Gae Aulenti, Mario Bellini, Timo Sarpaneva and Fulvio Bianconi together with some rising artists such as Elena Cutolo, Giorgio Vigna, Emmanuel Babled, Rodolfo Dordoni, Monica Guggisberg and Philip Baldwin.
At the end of 2001 the group Italian Luxury Industries, ran by the Italian entrepreneurs Gabriella and Giancarlo Chimento and Giuliano and Guglielmo Tabacchi, bought out Venini, focusing on luxury and design in order to maintain the aim of Paolo Venini, started in 1921.
The company still attends the most important design events all around the world launching new collections and limited editions designed by Giorgio Vigna, Alessandro Mendini, Sandro Chia and Mimmo Rotella. In the following years the number of important collaborations increases including the one with Fernando and Humberto Campana, who, in 2005, designed a big installation of glass bells for Moss Gallery in New York. During the most recent years the company maintained its most important feature: cooperate with worldwide renowned designers, architects and artists such as Tadao Ando, Fabio Novembre, Luca Nichetto, Gaetano Pesce, Matteo Thun, Atelier OI, Studio Job, Emmanuel Babled, Harri Koskinen, Diego Chilò, Ronan and Erwan Bourroulec and Leonardo Ranucci.
In 2011 Venini celebrated its 90th anniversary with a travelling exhibition that involved the most important organization in the world such as the Glass Museum of Murano, Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice, the Shanghai Museum of Glass and the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan.
Since 2012 the firm works with Fondazione Cini and Pentagram Stiftung on a ten-year project of single-author exhibitions on artists that worked for VENINI. All these works, including works, original drawings and images belonging to the company’s archives. The first exhibition, dedicated to Carlo Scarpa, called "CarloScarpa". Venini 1932-1947) was very successful in terms of public and critics and, in fall 2013, will be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with the title "Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company 1932-1947"