Afra Bianchin and Tobia Scarpa studied architecture together in Venice and began working in the world of design even before finishing their studies. They designed together their first chair, Pigreco, during a course taught by Franco Albini. Tobia was the son of the famous architect and designer Carlo Scarpa, while Afra came from one of the most well-known families in the region. After a lifetime of working together, until Afra’s death in 2011, it is difficult to distinguish the personal hand of each of them separately, although Tobia’s curiosity is often spoken of as opposed to Afra’s rigor.
Despite his training as an architect, Tobia has always defined himself as a designer. Afra and Tobia are part of the Italian design culture and have worked with many of the Italian brands that promote design as an added value. They already started designing for the Venini company, dedicated to Murano glass, before opening their own studio in 1960. For Gavina they created, in addition to the Pigreco chair, the Bastiano sofa and the Vanessa bed, two of their best-known pieces. Later they also created for Cassina the Soriana armchair, which won the Compasso d’Oro in 1970, and the 925 chair, included in the MoMA collection.
In 1960 they took part in the creation of the lighting company Flos and established themselves, together with the Castiglioni brothers, as the firm’s designers. For Flos they designed lamps as well known as Fantasma, Biagio or Papillona.
Their work as architects is also particularly linked to the Italian design culture, especially to the Benetton firm, for which they designed their first architectural work, Casa Benetton in Treviso, as well as their first factory and numerous industrial buildings over time. Their work for Benetton also includes the graphic image of the brand and the interior design of numerous stores in Europe and America.