Aula Baratto in the Ca’ Foscari University: Wood and Water

Read the expert’s voice: Paolo Pellizzari, Professor of Mathematics for Economic and Social Sciences at the Ca’ Foscari University, Venice.

Once a private residence dating back to 1463 and built for Doge Francesco Foscari, the Aula Baratto – dedicated to literature professor Mario Baratto – is one of the most iconic rooms of the Ca’ Foscari University and overlooks the Grand Canal. Imagined by Carlo Scarpa in 1935 and overhauling a previously gothic-inspired decor it is still in use to this day for lectures and conferences. The contrast between the warm wood and imposing light upon entering the room, as well as the view on the canal makes this a masterpiece of Scarpa design.

The expert’s voice: Paolo Pellizzari, Professor of Mathematics for Economic and Social Sciences at the Ca’ Foscari University, Venice.

As a mathematician, what do Carlo Scarpa and his work mean to you?

As it so happens to most lovers of beautiful things, I am fascinated by Scarpa’s work. In my case: I recognise a mathematical aesthetic in the Venetian architect’s work. If we think of elegance, clean lines and attention to detail, these attributes can both serve to describe Scarpa’s work as well as to describe formulas and treatises. Both in mathematics and in architecture, a rigorous process of creativity and imagination leads to solutions; there is very little difference whether you are solving mathematical equations or creating new environments and space through architecture.

How can we ‘sense’ mathematics in this space?

More than the room’s purely numerical characteristics, I must admit that it is the sheer out-of-scale beauty that strikes me most. Perhaps this is due to how the spaces are harmoniously juxtaposed and how architectural elements such as the rhythm of the eight Gothic windows look onto the Grand Canal offering a majestic view of the city.