The son of architect Carlo Scarpa, Tobia Scarpa (1935-) was born and has spent his career in Italy. He collaborated with his wife, Afra, on designs for nearly every major international company, including Flos, Cassina, Knoll and B&B Italia. Together, they developed a vocabulary for accessible luxury design based on expandingtechnology and a wide variety of materials.
Tobia and Afra both went to school at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura in Venice. In the late 1950s they began their joint career, working with the Venini glassworks. In 1960 they went on to open their own design office in Montebelluna. The furniture that they began designing, like Chair Model 917, manufactured by Cassina in the early 1960s and produced in walnut or ash with leather or fabric upholstery, was built on an appreciation for sumptuous materials and understanding of the need for the comfortable yet elegant designs that were becoming popular during that period in Italy. These designs, simpler and perhaps classical than some of their contemporary counterparts although they utilized entirely modern materials and methods of construction. They attracted people who needed modern furniture that could coexist with the antiques that still decorated their homes. Their "Bastiano" set -- couch, lounge chair, tables -- designed for Gavina and later reissued by Knoll is an icon of this design philosophy and became one of the best selling pieces of its time. The chairs and sofa were built of wood with leather upholstered cushions and could be completely taken apart. In 1966 Scarpa designed the "Coronado" series of armchairs for B&B Italia that were wildly successful. This was some of the first padded furniture to use the new cold-molded foaming process in which a metal structure could be sunk within the polyurethane padding. Scarpa's work for Cassina, where he collaborated with Gio Ponti, included the 1968 "Ciprea" armchair, which features a fabric slip-cover to give support to the frameless foam structure. Scarpa's 1970 "Soriana" armchair, on the other hand, had an external metal frame and an organic foam cushion. These two chairs were shown at theNew Domestic Landscape show at the MoMA in 1972 as representations his recent work.
Scarpa was commissioned, along with Pier Castiglioni, to design the first models for the lighting company Flos started by Dino Gavina. His later "Papillion" lamp for Flos (1973) was one of the first designs to use the newhalogen technology.
Tobia and Afra Scarpa also worked in commercial architecture and interior design, especially later in their career. Some of their best-known work was for the Benetton clothing company. They are credited with several interiors for them and for their prototype store in Italy. Tobia has also been a lecturer at the School of Industrial Design in Venice. Throughout his career he worked with the motto that design "is a profession without a rule book...that which remains (and is worth talking about) is that final and concrete result: the object."