The 3 (Adrien, Lloyd and Ekaterina) of us set out to find Franscesco in the Venetian ghèto. As with all workshops the working surfaces had been coated with a layer of grit and grime. Testament to the good number of man hours that had been poured into the facility in times past. A 40×40 extruded steel section rests on a column. We’re told through our translator that Scarpa once pointed to that piece and promised, ‘one day I’ll incorporate this into one of my designs‘. Yet it rests here covered in a thick layer of dust.
A number of carefully crafted repair components sprinkle the numerous workbenches. Like a jigsaw puzzle this fragmented viewing of Scarpa only hints towards a greater assemblage (or assemblages) of work. However this haphazard curation truly emphasizes the level of craftsmanship required for Scarpa’s design methodology. Where today the Architect treats the Contractor as a negotiation for design, Scarpa would have colluded with Franscesco to realise the act of design.
As we enquire about a component that looks strangely familiar, Franscesco explains it’s purpose thorugh a small series of working drawings before unceremoniously rummaging through his collection of forged ‘things’. Within seconds we are presented with a couple of completed prototypes and a replica of the final piece. It turns out the component we were enquiring about was one of the 20+ components that make up ‘Crescita’; a sculpture that now sells at Chrstie’s Auction house for a good 50,000.
Francesco’s devotion to the craft is abundantly evident. As a child, he would treat his father’s workshop as a playground. He raises his cap to reveal a scar he received when running into the base of a table vice. By the age of 13 he had already begun his training as a metal worker. So it’s no wonder Scarpa came to him for fabrication. It’s almost as if he were some sort of manifestation of the craft itself.
Today he is the only one left. Perhaps in times where deadlines are tight and working culture has become more about abundance and infrastructures of JIT delivery, the appreciation for this type of craftsmanship has sadly taken a back seat.