Former Olivetti showroom
Instead of the basilica on San Marco, head for a far newer landmark: the showroom architect Scarpa created for the Olivetti company in 1957. Diagonally across from the celebrated cathedral, it’s a jewel-like temple for secular objects. Scarpa transformed a long, narrow space underneath the arcade along the square’s northern flank into a dazzling, intimately scaled showcase for the display of Olivetti typewriters that, by the middle of the last century, had become coveted icons of modern design. As Scarpa was a Venetian, water played a key role in almost all of his projects. At the Olivetti showroom is a carved black marble pool in the entryway, as if to echo the fonts of holy water at the basilica. Ahead is a floating staircase of marble slabs suspended from bronze rods, leading to an upper level with balconies along one side. The floors are intricately patterned in colorful Murano glass tiles. The space was until recently a cramped commercial art gallery, but the superb craftsmanship and pure geometry of Scarpa’s achievement shine through.