Afra and Tobia Scarpa Biography

Tobia Scarpa
Tobia Scarpa
Classic Designs » Designers » Afra and Tobia Scarpa Biography

Afra and Tobia Scarpa

Afra and Tobia Scarpa graduated in Architecture at the University of Venice and have worked both as architects and designers.

Their many works of furnishing and decor design include the Pigreco armchair, the Bastiano sofa the Vanessa bed for Gavina, the Coronado bed for C & B, numerous lamps for Flos, among which the Foglio and the Papillona and office furniture made by Unifor.

The were awarded the Compasso d’Oro prize in 1970 for the Soriana armchair manufactured by Cassina.

Much of their work has been exhibited in important permanent collections in Paris, Vienna, London, Copenhagen, Munich, Cologne, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. 

From the eighties onwards their work has been increasingly in the field of architecture and the restoration of buildings.

Tobia Scarpa Interview

Which European country has most influenced your work?

I cannot deny that I have practised and still practice the “profession” of architect, unfortunately not a profession as old as the world, but both my origins and my character have led me to rigorously absent myself from any debate and well away from any cultural events up to this time, leaving my work to its own fate and stand on its own for what it is.

Having said that, it is not my wish to denigrate what others have done though for my part I know almost nothing of what the design world is debating. Take my library for example, it is home to very few books on design. I don’t think it is really a question of indifference but rather a need to keep what I feel to be an essential independence, while much is owed to the teachings of craftsmen at work who have been an influence since my childhood.

To identify any country that has sown seeds and influences we therefore have to look at the experiences of previous generations. If I may do so, then I can confidently say Austria and Loos, Hoffman and all the others of the very important arts and crafts school.    

Which European countries most appreciate your work?

I can say in all modesty that I do not consider myself to be that well-known or appreciated, except perhaps by half a dozen specialists. I am not of course thinking of those that make use of objects that have been designed by me and produced for the market. That is quite another kettle of fish, and perhaps what a first reading of the question would suggest; an area that owes as much to the effectiveness or otherwise of the advertising industry. 

Which European countries are in your view most interested in design?

Attention to the quality of the product of craft origins whose roots should not be lost, even with laws in place to support them, has historically placed the Scandinavian countries among those that care most about quality products.

What cultural exchange between European countries has produced the best results in design terms?

The question opens up a range of considerations that could lead me into a degree of confusion, though I do feel that England has, at least as far as the past is concerned, intelligently confronted the question of quality with an eye on what is going on elsewhere, and not only in Europe.

Which European Universities or Schools of Art were been most involved in the affirmation of design in the period 1945-78?

Certainly not those in my country, which stands out for its ignorance and lack of interest. Only in the past few years have the universities or schools of architecture begun to move out of their inertia. Once again my mind has to turn to the Scandinavian countries and the UK.

Is design promoted more by public bodies or by private industry in your country?

Forget it! It’s a crying shame but in my country, although there is a lot of talk, it doesn’t look to me, and I’m ignorant enough on the subject too, as if public bodies have any idea what design means or what the argument should be about.

As for private industry it is only interested in profit. The results are plain to see, though our racing cars win world titles and luxury shoes keep some Americans shod, there is more to design than that.

Would it be appropriate to speak of a European design style?

I tried very hard to avoid this question back in the introduction. I could suggest a hypothesis, but it begs considered reflection. While there are so many bombastic and strident voices straining to be heard it is impossible to talk in terms of a uniform idiom whose logic opposes the egocentric expressions directed via the star system to exalt individual profiles and to a utilitarian egocentrism. 

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Written by Simon
I am a published writer, journalist and photo-journalist. I have an MA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales and my journalism has been published in a number of UK national newspapers including 'the Observer'. I have life long interest in creative design, art and function and this website is an exploration of that in all its forms and guises.