Re:Reading Scarpa


  • Marc J. Neveu


During the 1985-86 academic year Italo Calvino gave the Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. In his third talk on “Quickness” he declared, “I do not wish to say that quickness is a value in itself. Narrative time can also be delaying, cyclic, or motionless. In any case, a story is an operation carried out on the length of time involved, an enchantment that acts on the passing of time, either contracting or dilating it.” Umberto Eco, a decade later, referenced Calvino in the third of his own lectures at Harvard entitled “Lingering in the Woods.” In that essay, Eco described a number of temporal strategies employed by various authors who explore the pleasures of lingering.

In this short essay I will show that such temporal tactics described discussed by Eco and Calvino share uncanny similarities Carlo Scarpa’s architecture. It is my wager that a careful reader of Scarpa’s work will, inevitably, linger. I will discuss two museum projects in particular—the extension to the Canova Museum in Possagno and the renovation of the Castellvechio Museum, in Verona—in both of which Scarpa intentionally posits disruptions in the uniform nature of processional time through the work and location of art. Indeed, Scarpa’s work is full of delays, distractions, and redirections that, if followed, present enchanting experiences not unlike those described by Calvino and Eco in their own work. Thus I hope to demonstrate that the similarities between architecture and narrative are not only topical, thematic, or even spatial, but temporal as well.