Casa Zentner in Zurich, the only work built by Carlo Scarpa outside Italy, was designed and built between 1963 and 1969 for Savina and René Zentner.
Savina Rizzi, intendant of architecture and art collector, had been one of Carlo Scarpa’s most assiduous clients since the 1950s. After he oversaw Frank Lloyd Wright’s project for the palace on the Grand Canal in Venice at a very early age, requested by architect Angelo Masieri, her first husband who died prematurely, Savina entrusted Scarpa with various commissions including, in 1953-54, the design of an apartment and a tomb, both in Udine, and in 1968 the renovation of the Fondazione Masieri in Venice. Meanwhile, after moving to Zurich in 1954, Savina Zentner commissioned Carlo Scarpa to build her a villa on the Dolder hill, distinguishing it from the Heimatstil context of the surrounding residences in terms of vocabulary, forms and materials. For Savina, Carlo Scarpa seems to have recreated an atlas of memory prepared by Venetian craftworkers. A distant world that dances reflected in translucent stuccos and metal mosaics, articulated by spaces and elements designed down to the smallest scale, with interlacing allusions that draw on architecture, design and art, characterising this villa as a total work of art.
Casa Zentner is an exception even among Scarpa’s works, given the constancy with which he oversaw the whole course of its design until its end, assisted by the Swiss architect Theo Senn, who physically supervised its construction. This process is reflected in the numerous documents, which have made it possible to reconstruct a micro-history of the building: more than eight hundred drawings preserved for the most part in the Archivio Carlo Scarpa, correspondence and accounts ordered by René Zentner and the oral testimonies of those who lived in the house or frequented Scarpa’s studio in those years.
The villa, which has always been inhabited by its clients and never altered, is a cultural and material testimony of outstanding value. Now, for the first time, it opens its doors.