Carlo Scarpa wasn’t born a designer. First, he was an architect. Then, he became a glassmaker. Finally, thanks to his partnership with Dino Gavina, he made his debut in designing furniture. One of his first creations was the Delfi table, for Studio Simon, in 1970. His collaboration with Marcel Breuer produced this unique beauty of Italian design.
The creative duo didn’t want to produce anything complicated, flashy, or made of plastic. Instead, the two designers wanted to create something elegant and unique. However, Scarpa and Breuer did produce something striking with the Delfi table. But it’s flashy because of its material, simple yet exclusive. In this piece of design, the star is the marble of Carrara. An Italian material for an Italian designer who found the balance between past and present.
The Specs of the Delfi Table
There is no other material except for the Italian, white marble. Scarpa took inspiration from a table Breuer designed in the 1930s and then gifted to Dino Gavina. Scarpa, a close friend of Gavina, saw the table and fell in love with it. So much so that he decided to create his version between 1969 and 1970 as part of the “Ultrarazionale” project.
Still, the Italian designer didn’t make many changes to the original design. His additions and his personal touch included the opening holes at the center of the feet, making the Delfi table more rational, closer to the aesthetic of the 70s. It featured two monolithic bases or Carrara marble and a rectangular top of the same elegant material. It seems easy and simple, but working on this material wasn’t easy. Scarpa had to use the technology of his time to make sure the Delfi table looked both poetic and functional.
Carlo Scarpa died in 1978, but the design of this unique table didn’t. In fact, his son Tobia Scarpa created his own version in 2008. This time, the Delfi also featured white Vicenza stone. Plus, it offered an alternative to the marble top, in this case of transparent glass. Three designers for one table that lives through the decades.
The Story Behind It
The version of Carlo Scarpa represents the designer’s love for breaking the rules. While architecture had specific equations and numbers, Scarpa loved to set his imagination free. And he loved combining traditional materials like marble with the latest innovation, including the machines that helped create the Delfi table.
The holes he added to the table represent the aesthetic and the philosophy of the rationalism movement. Specifically, the Italian version of these architectural and design concepts. Italian rationalism was born between the 1920s and the 30s, and it focused on experimentation. Also, the ideas behind this aesthetic valued order and logic. And functionality, of course.
In this view, the Delfi version created by Breuer might have been too “poetic.” The additions made by Carlo Scarpa made it more logical, almost creating interruptions in the marble poem. But he respected the natural beauty of Carrara’s marble, and the Italian designer made sure his table’s version underlined the material’s uniqueness. Eclectic, sure, but with a purpose and with a view.
Carlo Scarpa wasn’t born a designer, but his love for creating and beauty led him to decor and furniture. That’s how he produced his pieces for companies such as Simon International and Bernini. He made them with passion and a unique eye for what’s functional and beautiful. Needless to say, he passed on his talent to his son Tobia Scarpa, another genius of Italian design. It’s more than the history of design. It’s the history of a family.