The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Click to see full size Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East
Photo © John East

War memorials

Italy: San Vito D’Altivole and the Brion Cemetery

Architect: Carlo Scarpa
Location: Vito D'Altivole, Italy

This is the most important and celebrated work by Carlo Scarpa, a masterpiece in terms of abstract sculptural architecture carried out in reinforced concrete: a composition of water, garden and geometrical forms. It was commissioned in 1968 by the widow of Giuseppe Brion, co-founder of the Brion-Vega electronics firm, and was created over the following decade. The new cemetery, with tombs and graves for members of the Brion family, is an extension of the existing village cemetery. Scarpa himself wrote of his creation that “I consider this work, if you permit me, to be rather good and which will get better over time. I have tried to put some poetic imagination into it, though not in order to create poetic architecture but to make a certain kind of architecture that could emanate a sense of formal poetry….The place for the dead is a garden….I wanted to show some ways in which you could approach death in a social and civic way; and further what meaning there was in death, in the ephemerality of life—other than these shoe-boxes.” There is nothing else quite like it, yet in its abstraction, and as a composition of landscape architecture with the resonances of a memorial, perhaps it is not wholly unrelated to the monumental sacrari created three decades earlier by Greppi and Castiglione.

Gavin Stamp

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