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Design Icon: Tobia Scarpa

Elegant and refined design far from the trends of the moment: this is Tobia Scarpa. Meet an innovative Italian designer and discover a unique selection of lighting and decorative pieces he designed for Venini, Monnalisa and San Lorenzo.

Son of the architect and designer Carlo Scarpa, Tobia Scarpa was born in Venice the 1st of January 1934. He graduated in 1957, with his future wife and colleague Afra Bianchin, at the IUAV – University of Venice and started working as a glass designer at Murano glass factory ​Venini, before opening a design studio in Montebelluna with his wife.

Enthusiast admirer of elegant and refined design, both in shapes and in the choice of materials, Tobia Scarpa embraced his father’s guidelines and did not adhere to specific trends, pursuing rather an idea of durable and fair design. The pieces, designed and realized over time, always respect a balance between art and imagination, craftsmanship and industrial production.

In 1960, Tobia and Afra Scarpa started their first collaboration with Gavina and later worked for renowned brands such as B&B Italia, Flos and Cassina designing the Soriana Armchairs and winning a Compasso d’Oro in 1970. Since then, Tobia Scarpa has received many other design awards and several of his projects are exhibited in some of the world’s leading museums, including his Libertà chair on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

In his work, Tobia Scarpa focuses especially on the technical and aesthetical possibilities of the materials used. According to Tobia materials have a vocation: their various interactions generate diversity, and from diversity you can obtain dialogue and therefore relations. In this regard, he states that the objective and tangible work of a designer must be paid, but his essence consists in offering the others desires and creativity and this can never have a price.

Tobia Scarpa has worked in several fields including: glass design, furniture, clothing and interior design; and has contributed in expanding the heritage of Italian Design and making architecture a great communication tool over time.

As an architect, Scarpa worked, together with his wife Afra Bianchin Scarpa, for both public and private clients, including, in 1964, the Benetton clothing company. Tobia and Afra Scarpa designed Benetton's first textile factory and various stores worldwide (Freiburg, Paris and New York). Even today, Benetton factories are considered an instance of aesthetic-functional excellence, one of the grater pieces of industrial architecture in the world. Tobia Scarpa also participated in the restoration of historic Italian buildings, including Palazzo della Ragione in Verona, and now teaches in the Design Department of IUAV – University of Venice.

Explore ​Monnalisa's lighting pieces designed by Tobia Scarpa, iconic silverware designed by Tobia and Afra Scarpa for ​San Lorenzo and the unique vases he designed together with Ludovico Diaz de Santillana for ​Venini.

Modernity is already gone. Now we must be aware of what we want from contemporary.

Benetton textile factory in Ponzano Veneto designed by Tobia and Afra Scarpa. Photography Antonia Mulas
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