LOCATION Venice, Italy
YEAR 1998
THEME Architecture, Sacred spaces, Cemetery
STATUS Competition
DESIGNERS Antonio Monestiroli
TEAM Massimo Ferrari, Martina Landsberger, Tomaso Monestiroli

The cemetery is a modern building, at least as a civil institution that gives every citizen the right to burial. A building whose ultimate purpose is to create around burial a condition of respect. A place in whose forms that condition is made recognizable. Architecture is entrusted with this task: to make the act of custody recognizable. The fence is the element that belongs to all cemeteries in history, the element of protection and identification of the place of the dead, the constitutive element of its meaning. Similarly, the island, the forest, are elements that protect and identify a place. The island because it is circumscribed and difficult to access, the forest because it distinguishes an inside from an outside. The forest, then, belongs to all those cemeteries that entrust nature and its elements with a sense of duration in time.

The cemetery of Isola di San Michele is a secluded place, circumscribed and protected by the fact that it is itself an island. A place enclosed by a wall, dedicated to the dead. In the landscape of the lagoon between the Fondamenta Nuove and the island of Murano, the cemetery is reached with a sense of expectation because of the shape of its interior spaces. Expectation that, having passed the beautiful Codussi facade at the landing, fades away as one penetrates the large enclosure, losing its relationship with the landscape, with the lagoon and thus with Venice. A cemetery, the existing one, certainly more beautiful outside than inside, precisely because once inside one loses track of where the cemetery stands. One loses track of the island, unlike on other islands in the lagoon. The project starts precisely from these positive and negative considerations and conforms to them. The first choice was to accept the indications of the notice, which suggests expansion rather than the formation of a new island. This is because we think it is necessary to intervene in the relationship of the island to the landscape rather than leave the existing cemetery in the condition it is in and build a new relationship in another island. Having chosen the route of expansion, the general idea of the project is to keep the existing cemetery and the project cemetery separate by means of a park and garden that are at the same time outside the walls of the old cemetery and inside the fences of the new one. The relationship with the landscape, so important in this place, is established by the course of the new perimeter that leaves large openings in the three directions: north toward Murano, east and south toward Venice. The objective of the composition is to build at the same time closed and protected places and open places towards the lagoon landscape. Hence the choice of large open courtyards on the burial grounds, built partly on the water, so as to delimit and include mirrors of the lagoon within the cemetery. On the sides of the courts between one and the other, a calle allows views of the lagoon.


Il cimitero maggiore di Voghera Federico Motta Editore Milan 2004

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