The conjured drawings of Carlo Scarpa: a magic-real inquiry into architectural representation

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation proposes a theory of architectural representation based on a close examination of Carlo Scarpa's drawing practices at the Brion cemetery located in San Vito d'Altivole, Italy. Informed by the literary practice of magic-realism and Massimo Bontempelli's thoughts on the ontology of the real, it projects Scarpa's drawing practices into larger questions of theory that parallel and intersect Giambattista Vico's philosophy of knowledge as making.

Architectural drawing is understood herein as a practice that belongs in the realm of magic. In theorizing on the intersection between magic and architectural representation, this dissertation focuses in the twentieth century, where magic in its original sense had seemingly become an obsolete tradition. Magic-realism acts as the contemporary theoretical framework to investigate the question. Such a framework is relevant because the movement acknowledged the perennial gap between how reality is defined and what reality really is. The movement intensified the notion that reality is not given but must be constructed, and its point of departure in the modern world is not something extraordinary, but that which circumvolves everyday life.

Structured in nine chapters that investigate a very specific set of drawings, Scarpa's way of working emerges through a very close reading of minimal events that become the locus for the theory proposed here. Architectural drawing understood as place of ambiguous realities offers a unique approach to architects' imagination. Such realities, however, are not a product of aleatory allegories, but they emerge within an immersive and witty approach to the work and the world.

Carlo Scarpa, architectural drawing, magic realism, Architecture