Negozio Olivetti: a Kaleidoscope of Colours and Details

Read the expert’s voice: Elena Borghello, FAI representative of the Negozio Olivetti


Dominated by a staircase floating in space, the Negozio Olivetti was commissioned by Adriano Olivetti to Carlo Scarpa in 1957 as the Venetian showroom for the Olivetti typewriters – once at the height of technology and now an iconic piece of Italian design. Since 2011 the Olivetti Shop has been managed by FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano under concession from Generali Italia S.p.A and is a treasure-trove of details waiting to be discovered.

The expert’s voice: Elena Borghello, FAI representative of the Negozio Olivetti

As an art historian, what does Carlo Scarpa’s work mean to you?

Scarpa’s works have a style and an attention to detail which makes them always recognisable. Characterised by an effort to balance functionality and elegance, his approach relied upon materials and craftsmanship to achieve harmony in complexity. The physical fabric of Venice was his primary source of inspiration. Having grown up in and around La Serenissima, his understanding of its elements was so profound that he was able to fashion even its water into a building material.

What role do colours and light play in the store?

Entering the store, colours and light seem to blend together. This refined kaleidoscopic effect, achieved by layering sightlines and perforated screens, is the product of Scarpa’s masterful control of natural light and choice of materials. There is the grey Aurisina stone used in the staircase and the central pillar, the pale stucco on the walls, the warm tones of African teak in the galleries and rosewood on the shelves of typewriters. There is the gilded bronze of Alberto Viani’s Nude in the Sun suspended above the water of a black Belgian marble fountain. Serving as a painterly ground to all this is a floor of coloured Murano glass tiles. Yellow, green, red and white, this innovative terrazzo reflects Scarpa’s defining capacity – to create novel beauty with Venice’s ancient palette.