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09.28.2012
Glass Act
New museum in Venice celebrates the city's famed glass in a Selldorf-designed setting.
Fabio Zanta

Carlo Scarpa: Venini 1932–1947
Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Italy
Through November 29

Along with wowing tourists, making glass is a major industry in Venice. But only now is there an official glass museum to celebrate and document the history of innovative glass design. Located on the island of San Giorgio, across the water from San Marco Square, the new Rooms for Glass designed by New York–based Annabelle Selldorf, with Venetian architects Fabrizio Cattaruzza and Francesco Millosevich, opened during the architecture biennale in late August with an exhibition dedicated to the Venini glassworks and its director, architect Carlo Scarpa, a trailblazer in modern glass.

The 7,000-square-foot exhibition space, in a former military boarding school, redeploys classrooms into galleries with considerable finesse adding several ample vitrines in each room, some 65 feet of open storage for the collection, all in finely detailed blackened-steel display cases by local artisans that complement by contrast the white plaster walls. The showpieces currently on display—remarkable for their mastery of traditional techniques married to a modern sensibility—were made by Scarpa between 1932 and 1947 when he was at the Venini. Working drawings and sketches thought to have been destroyed are also on display giving insight into the architect's creative process. Holding their own—in comparison to Scarpa—are 19 hanging lamps of milky engraved Murano glass by Paris–born, Venice–based artist Alessandro Diaz de Santillana that elegantly define the circulation paths without decorating them.

Julie V. Iovine