ERA Architects

On Scarpa’s Castelvecchio

Having returned from a trip to Verona, ERAer Ryan Love recently presented to the office on his experience of the amazing Castelvecchio, a fine example of medieval Gothic architecture, completed in 1355. The castle was built as a fortified home for the Lord of Verona, Cangrande II della Scala, and has over the years seen many occupants and undergone many adaptations, the most recent in the 1960s by Carlo Scarpa. The result is an incredibly complex and subtle approach to heritage conservation and adaptive reuse.

Scarpa’s material and formal choices blur the line between heritage and modern fabric, sometimes bringing the new into direct, intimate contact with the old, other times letting the two slip by one another like passing ships.

Here, the concrete aggregate is decisively course, like rubble. Its strata reveal the layered pours that went into its making.

Weld beads are left intact and exposed rather than having been ground down and buffed. This making-plain of seams and abutments appears to be Scarpa’s ornamental response to the textured Gothic surroundings.

A slab of stone floating on and cantilevered over a heritage brick base. The work does not present an image of history, but a literal and material connection to its fabric.

Entrance hardware. Each component is articulated and its relationship to the whole made clear. This is not architecture as graphic art, but as material assemblage.

A staircase that refuses to be solid, which makes the climbing of it a significant event. Layers of centuries-old bricks fill the blanks of the missing risers.

All photos: Ryan Love.