Giorgio Scarpa
Italian designer, bionics and topology researcher, teacher, and artist.

Profile and videos by Pino Trogu, San Francisco State University [trogu at sfsu dot edu]

The short videos below refer to the topics of Scarpa's two books. The first is a bionic study of the mouth apparatus of the sea urchin, also known as Aristotle's Lantern, after the first detailed study of it by the Greek philosopher. Recently new prototypes of a biopsy harvester and a ground sampler were inspired by Scarpa's model of the urchin. This new instrumentation is described in an article published in 2016 by the journal Leonardo (MIT). Click links below to download those articles. The PDFs of the bionics books are at right. The English is an unpublished draft translation; the Italian is the original text and images.

The second video shows one of the many "modular" chains described in the rotational geometry book, which focuses on rotational movement as a basic form generating process. Scarpa dissects the five Platonic solids and other solids into chains of hinged triangular pyramids that fold back into their enclosure cells. The PDFs of the geometry books are at right. The English is an unpublished draft translation; the Italian is the original text and images. Both bionics and geometry books were published as part of a now out-of-print series called "Design Notebooks", edited by the late Italian designer Bruno Munari. The covers of the books in that series are shown below. The other videos show more topological and bionic studies by Scarpa, including DNA models and studies of muscle structure.

More information:

This page was last updated on Monday, December 11, 2017.

Lantern 1
Bionic Model of Aristotle's Lantern
Video length: 1'-12". Video: Pino Trogu, 1994.


Pino Trogu
Giorgio Scarpa’s Model of a Sea Urchin Inspires New Instrumentation.
Leonardo (MIT). Just Accepted publication October 31, 2016. doi:10.1162/LEON_a_01384.


Filip Jelínek, Gerwin Smit and Paul Breedveld
Bioinspired Spring-Loaded Biopsy Harvester — Experimental Prototype Design and Feasibility Tests
Journal of Medical Devices 8(1), March 2014.

Frank, Michael B., et al.
A Protocol for Bioinspired Design: A Ground Sampler Based on Sea Urchin Jaws
Journal of Visualized Experiments (110), e53554, doi:10.3791/53554 (2016).

Bionic models book cover
Download PDF of complete Bionic Models book. Unpublished English translation of Italian Edition: Modelli di Bionica, 1985.
Translated by Pino Trogu. 120 pages. File size: 38MB.

Bionic models book cover italiano
Scarica PDF completo del libro Modelli di Bionica Zanichelli, Bologna, 1985. 120 pagine. File size: 50MB.

Hexahedral chain
Hexahedral Chain
Video length: 1'-12".

Topological studies and transformable figures
Topological studies and transformable figures.
Video length: 3'-58".
Video (2013): Carlo Gregori. Talent: Niccolo' Messineo.

DNA and muscle models
DNA and muscle models
Video length: 1'-44".
Video: Pino Trogu, 1994.

Conference papers

Lorenzo Bocca e Pino Trogu
Gli oggetti trasformabili di Giorgio Scarpa: Geometria come Arte, Scienza e Gioco (Italiano)
Incontri con la matematica No. 31 – Castel San Pietro Terme (Bo) 10 December 2017 (PDF 8MB)

Pino Trogu
Rotational Geometry as a Teaching Tool: Applying the Work of Giorgio Scarpa
DRS // CUMULUS 2013 – 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers – Oslo, 14–17 May 2013 (PDF 5MB)


Rotational Geometry as a Teaching Tool: Applying the Work of Giorgio Scarpa
Faculty Research And Creative Activities Retreat: Innovate And Create – San Francisco State University (SFSU) – J Paul Leonard Library, January 24, 2013 – (36"x48" PDF 7MB)


Rotational Geometry as a Teaching Tool: Applying the Work of Giorgio Scarpa
SFSU, 2013 – (11"x17" 2-sided, folded. 7MB)

Geometry models book cover
Download complete PDF of the book Models of Rotational Geometry by Giorgio Scarpa. Unpublished English translation of Italian Edition: Modelli di Geometria Rotatoria, 1978.
Translated by Pino Trogu. 120 pages. File size: 4MB.

Click here to download PDF of a sample of Mary Vieira's student work from the Kunstgeverbeschule, Basel, 1966-1967.
Various sections of the cube.

Cubic chain of 24 modules. Designed by Florence Yuen. (PDF) San Francisco State University, Fall 2010. Instructor: Pino Trogu. The design of the chain follows the principles and methods outlined in "Models of Rotational Geometry", by Giorgio Scarpa.

Modelli geometria rotatoria copertina
Scarica PDF completo del libro Modelli di Geometria Rotatoria di Giorgio Scarpa. Zanichelli, Bologna, 1978. 120 Pagine. File size: 38MB.

DNA Model
DNA Model
Video length: 0'-32".

The 14 books in the "Design Notebooks" series. All books in the series are 7.5 x 10 inches.

01 Textures
01 Textures.
146 pages.
02 The Discovery of the Triangle
02 The Discovery of the Triangle.
106 pages.

03 Logo research and design
03 Logo Research and Design.
80 pages.
04 Original Xerographies
04 Original xerographies.
96 pages.
05 Models of rotational geometry
05 Models of rotational geometry.
120 pages.
06 The discovery of the square
06 The discovery of the square.
160 pages.
07 Folding objects
07 Folding objects.
126 pages.
08 Active writing
08 Active writing.
88 pages.
09 The discovery of the pentagon
09 The discovery of the pentagon.
96 pages.

10 Color: code and norm
10 Color: code and norm.
132 pages.
11 Creativity in textiles
11 Creativity in textiles.
80 pages.
12 A show of color
12 A show of color.
64 pages.
13 Bionic models
13 Bionic models.
120 pages.
14 Rhythms and symmetries
14 Rhythms and symmetries.
112 pages.

Click here to download the set of covers as a PDF file (6MB).

NOTE: Giorgio Scarpa taught Descriptive Geometry for 40 years at the Art Institutes of Oristano and Faenza, Italy. He also taught Theory of Perception for 28 years at the Institute of Design (ISIA) in Faenza. His books on Bionics (Aristotle's Lantern) and Rotational Geometry, were published in Italy as part of a design series edited by the late Bruno Munari. An unpublished draft translation of those books by Pino Trogu is seeking publication in the US. Scarpa's mostly unpublished personal explorations include bionics, topology, DNA and muscle structure models, at times attacking such abstract problems as defining rules on how to find one's way out of a labyrinth. Pino Trogu is Associate Professor of Information Design at San Francisco State University and was a student of Scarpa at the Art Institute in Oristano, Sardinia, Italy, from 1974 to 1979. In 2017-18 he received a sabbatical year to conduct research on transformable origami structures at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), hosted by the Bio-Inspired Technology Group (BITE) in the Department of Bio-Mechanical Engineering.

For more information, please email Pino Trogu [trogu at sfsu dot edu]

Giorgio Scarpa died on April 5, 2012, aged 74, after a brief illness. He will be terribly missed, but the legacy and the genius of his creative work will live on. P.T. Wednesday, April 11, 2012.