LOCATION Voghera, Pavia, Italy
YAER 1995 – 2003
THEME Architecture, Sacred spaces, Cemetery
DESIGNERS Antonio Monestiroli, Tomaso Monestiroli
TEAM  Roberta Castiglioni, Martina Landsberger, Paolo Rizzo

If in a forest we find a mound six feet long and three feet wide, arranged with a shovel in the shape of a pyramid, we get serious and something says within us: a man is buried here. This is Architecture (Adolf Loos).
There are two ways in which the feeling of respect for the dead is expressed. The first is an individual feeling related to the affections and memory of those close to them. The second is a collective feeling proper to a citizenry that recognizes in the community of the dead a part of its history. These are two ways of being of a feeling that must be able to coexist in every cemetery ancient or modern. In Voghera a thousand white stone tombstones, with a cross engraved in the center, are set in exposed brickwork, red bricks like those of the Visconti Castle and the cathedral.

The gravestones are set on three sides of a large courtyard building open to the street so that all who pass by can see them. In front of that urban scene, passersby stop to contemplate that expanse of tombstones and recognize a multitude of graves there. Before resuming their way, each turns their thoughts to the citizens buried in those graves. He has a thought for the past of a community of which he himself feels a part. That theater of white headstones is the memory of an entire city. Then there are those who visit a relative or friend buried in that cemetery. To enter it he has to pass through the court but sometimes his thoughts prevent him from seeing those gravestones. These do not matter to him; he cares about visiting only one grave. So he enters one of the inner galleries where he will find that grave. I am happy with this project. I was from the beginning because I think I was able to recognize the complexity of a feeling that accepts no exclusions. Of none of its many aspects. (AM)

 I started to collaborate on the project for the fifth extension of the Voghera Major Cemetery from the very beginning, first as a simple draftsman and gradually, as time went by and I gained more and more experience, I was able to follow the realization of both lots. The Voghera cemetery project has rap- presented for me the apprenticeship, the real "workshop" work, where I began to learn the architect's craft and where I understood what the fundamental values of the project are.

I understood that the formal simplicity of an architecture is achieved only at- traction through the complexity of the reasons for the project, and not by the simplification of the design path. I understood that every decision made during the course of the project, every unforeseen event that is encountered, and that requires an immediate solution, must still be consistent with the overall spirit of the project without ever falling into the trap of “…you can’t see it anyway.” In such cases I understood the importance of the Miesian answer God sees everything! I understood, too, that the strength of an archi- tecture, its resistance, even material resistance, to time is given primarily by the validity of its founding principles, its rules, and not only by the quality of its realization. I learned that there is no such thing as “easy” architecture or “difficult” architecture; designing the city of the dead, as well as designing the city of the living, involves the same intellectual effort and imposes the same moral and civic commitment. I have learned that design choices can never be personal, but must always be motivated to such an extent that they are necessary, even those that seem on the surface to be irrelevant to the final result. Drawing every single brick in the cemetery, and then following its installation, made me realize how decisive the design is, which in itself must already contain all the answers necessary for realization. I believe that a project, even an unrealized one, that respects these rules constitutes an advancement of knowledge; on the contrary, an unrealizable project, even if beautifully depicted, will contribute nothing to the cognitive process. Why? and How? These are the questions I have learned to ask myself constantly as I work, and if I cannot find a more than convincing answer, perhaps it is better to try another avenue in solving the problem. The fifth expansion of the Voghera Major Cemetery was an apprenticeship for me, which makes me feel, today, a little more confident. (TM)

Photo by Marco Introini


L. Cardani (edit by) Studio Monestiroli  Opere e progetti di Architettura Electa Milan 2021

W. Hall (edit by)  BRICK Phaidon London 2015

M. Leoni, G. Pigafetta (edit by) Architettura: il duplice sguardo su vita e morte  Il Poligrafo Padova 2014

Phaidon Atlas dell’architettura mondiale del XXI secolo   Phaidon London 2013

F. Migayrou (edit by). La Tendenza. Architecture italiennes 1965-1985  Éditions du Centre Pompidou Paris 2012

M. Ferrari, C. Tinazzi, C. Simioni, A. Tognon (edit by) Antonio Monestiroli. Prototipi di architettura  Il Poligrafo Padova 2012

Italy now, architecture 2000-2012  Edilstampa Milan 2012

L. Molinari, S. Galateo (edit by) Architetture contemporanee Skira Milan 2010

Brick 06. Die beste europaishe ziegelarchitectur
Verlag Georg D.W.Callwey GmbH&Co.KG Munchen 2006

Italian contemporary architecture in ARCHI 100 N41 2006

P. Nicolin (edit by)   Architettura contemporanea in Italia. Conflitti, catalogo della mostra Skira Milan 2005

M. Felicori (edit by) Gli spazi della memoria  Editore Luca Sossella Rome 2005

G. Strappa (edit by) Edilizia per il culto Edizioni UTET Turin 2005


The Phaidon Atlas of contemporary world architecture Phaidon London 2004

 Il cimitero maggiore di Voghera Federico Motta Editore Milan 2004


P. Zimolo (edit by)   Il progetto del monumento tra memoria e invenzione  Mazzotta Milan 2003

M. Ferrari (edit by) Antonio Monestiroli Opere, progetti e studi di architettura Electa Milan 2001


SD Space Design N9602 1996