Thirty years has passed since Carlo Scarpa passed away at Sendai (Japan) on 28th November 1978, however the Brion family tomb at San Vito di Altivole has certainly not been forgotten, very definitely a rare invention within the panorama of modern architecture, this particular work has constantly remained an object of interest on the part of International art critics and is visited every year by thousands of people from al lover the world.
With the passing of time, Scarpa's designs for the Brion family tomb at San Vito have been increasingly seen as a 'deeply poetical text' that can be 'read' and intuitively comprehended by observers of all cultural backgrounds and every level of social extraction.
The Brion complex comprises a series of fascinating structures and points of observation, and the experience of visiting the site usually involves the emergence within the observer of various psychological associations and angles of interpretation.
The complex visual stimuli offered by the architectural structures tend to arouse a desire to dwell on existential themes and the possible existence of a 'sacred' dimension, which appears to be reflected in the symbolic content of each construction.
The architect's designs are endowed with a subtle beauty and the 'phrases' of his 'text' are deeply-imbued with human sentiment. It may occur that flames of 'emotional intelligence' will be consciously or semi-consciously kindled in the hearts of those who visit the cemetery.
After visiting the Brion tomb, one may also feel a lingering desire to acquire a fuller understanding of the meaning of the architecture and become acquainted with the sources of inspiration that influenced its conception or one may be left with a desire to gain knowledge of the cultural points of reference and the sensibility of both Carlo Scarpa himself and those who commissioned its design and construction.
Brion, the client
Giuseppe Brion was born at san Vito di Altivole, a small town in the province of Treviso. In 1939, he married Onorina Tomasin, who was originally from the nearby village of Santa Giustina in Colle.
Once he had completed his studies, shortly after the end of the Second World War, Brion and his wife went to live in Milan. In 1945, Brion, Onorina and a close friend, the engineer Leone Pajetta, founded an enterprise for the production of electronic components. Already a highly innovative venture at the time it was founded, the firm gradually became highly specialized; at the outset, it manufactured radio equipment and then television sets. The firm was originally called B.P. Radio but this name was soon replaced by the name of Vega; finally, during the 1960s, this was changed to Brionvega.
The Brion family cultivated interests in the fields of art, architecture and design and revealed a particular talent in choosing the best Italian designers for their products. The Brionvega catalogue eventually became a 'collection' in the true sense and in its own right; in the history of Italian design, it was a kind of crossroads, at which converged the genius and style of such architects as Marco Zanuso, Richard Sapper, the Castiglioni brothers, Mario Bellini, Franco Albini, Ettore Sottsass and Gino Valle.
Brionvega was the only Italian firm in this industrial sector to attain the distinction of representing its country at the world exhibitions held in Montreal (1967) and Osaka (1970), and certain objects which it manufactured were acquired for the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre and other important museums.
In Italy, the results attained by the firm were perhaps comparable only with those of Olivetti 980s; Brionvega brilliantly achieved its goals in terms of the quality of its designs, the clarity of its communication strategies and the aesthetic and functional improvements it introduced in both the domestic and work environments of this day.
Giuseppe Brion died suddenly at Rapallo on 12th September 1968; although we may say he departed this life in the 'fullness of his years', he had however not reached the age of sixty. Shortly afterwards, Onorina and her son Ennio Brion sought Carlo Scarpa's assistance for a design for a monumental family tomb.
Scarpa had in fact spent time with Giuseppe Brion and his wife on various occasions during their stay in Asolo; the subtle beauty of the surroundings and the town, the mild climate and omnipresent reminders of past ages had convinced the architect that this was where he should live, and in fact he continued to rent a house there until the mid 1970s.
Nor did the difficulties he encountered in commuting between Asolo and Venice (he had never learnt to drive a car), where he taught at the Institute of Architecture, ever make hi change his mind. The moment when he finally abandoned his beautiful home and terrace in via Robert Browning, which offered a clear view of the tall castle that stands above the slopes to the south of the town, was probably not an easy one.
Carlo Scarpa deeply loved the country side and physical landscapes of the Veneto; he had studied the way it was represented in old paintings and he could of course enjoy delightful vies of the plain and hills from his house in Asolo.
The piece of land initially assigned to the Brion tomb at San Vito covered an area of 68 sq.m., however in 1969 an L-shaped plot of agricultural land covering 2.400 sq.m. adjoining the north-eastern perimeter of the square shaped communal cemetery had been identified as necessary for the monumental complex.
This was an area of extraordinary size for a family tomb. For a time, the fact was perhaps a source of concern for Scarpa and he declared that on various occasion he had felt that it might be better – and sufficient – to plant a thousand cypress-trees (cfr. Conference at Madrid, June 1978) at the site with no constructions at all. The planning and construction of the Brion tomb kept Scarpa busy for a decade and he assiduously followed its development. He once stated: "This is the work I enjoy visiting most of all; in my other works I see nothing but faults and errors".
At the construction site he was assisted by some of his best collaborators: the builders provided by the contractor Luigi Bratti with their foreman Piero Bozzetto; the blacksmiths Paolo and Francesco Zanon; the carpenter Saverio Anfodillo; Eugenio De Luigi, who was in charge of the plastering and stucco work, and the stonemasons that worked for the firms Henraux and Morselletto.
The intention underlying the conception of the cemetery was to make use of architectural forms and elements of the surrounding landscape to reflect and symbolize the bond of love that had united Giuseppe and Onorina Brion. However on account of the intentional anonymous atmosphere within the precinct of the funerary complex (only the sarcophagi are identified by the names of the couple buried there), the idea can be extended to every couple that have lived together in harmony.
A few months after the request made by Onorina and Ennio Brion, Carlo Scarpa was able to show his clients a project and an architectural model (now preserved by the Royal Institute of British Architects at the Victoria & Albert gallery in London), in which there are very few differences with respect to the existing construction.
We shall never know what words Scarpa actually used to put forward his ideas but the project was immediately approved and the construction site was opened in the spring of 1969. During the various phase of construction, member of the Brion family occasionally visited the site and they were known to be quite discreet and patient, especially if one recalls that the work lasted for a decade. On account of Scarpa's death in Japan moreover, the project is not considered as having been fully completed.
The wooden model show the existing cemetery surrounded by the broad, L-shaped plot of land enclosed externally by an outer wall that presents an inclination of 60 degrees with respect to the line of the horizon. It also shows the 5 buildings that were actually built within the envisaged new precinct. These include: a broad construction at the point where visitors enter the complex from the village cemetery (referred to as the propylaea); to the right a small pavilion beside a large, square, shallow pool of water; to the left, the sarcophagi of Giuseppe and Onorina Brion beneath a wide arch (the 'arcosolium'); in the northern part of the area, the Brion family tomb built against the outer wall; and a small, cube-shaped chapel.
Together with the model preserved in London, Carlo Scarpa left about 3.000 drawings, including project execution plans, notes, sketches, and other items, now kept in a special section of the State Archive in Treviso. These materials, which allow those interested to follow and comprehend the architect's process of conception and the development of the project, have been carefully studied by architectural critics and have been consulted by scholars from all over the world.
Some pictures during construction:
Architecture is an art that involves all of our senses; this aim is achieved by a masterful use of materials, forms and proportion, and also by the position assumed by observers within a particular structure. Architects attempt to establish specific relations with the surrounding environment, the landscape in the background and even with the open sky on the basis of choices made with respect to orientation.
From the very beginning, Scarpa decided that he would make use of the east entrance already existing in the 19th-century village cemetery. On leaving the cemetery at this point, one would automatically be walking towards the east. By making this the point of entry to the Brion funerary complex, he appears to confirm the importance of the symbolic gesture of running towards the east in search of the source of light and of life itself when one thinks of and returns to visit the graves and tombs of those we once loved and still love.
From outside the cemetery and standing at a distance, the complex first appears as an elongated structure set against the horizon in this very flat countryside, and one will immediately notice the towering cypress trees and the from of the chapel.
On approaching the area, one may think of this funerary precinct as a sort of citadel made of only one material (concrete formed by wooden casting moulds) and one will immediately notice the curious slant of the outer wall. The various structures inside seem to emerge in an odd way on account of the raised level of the ground behind the walls, much higher than that of the surrounding land.
The main entrance to the Brion tombs (the 'propylaea')
The Brion family tombs may be accessed from two entrances located beside the road, however it is more interesting and perhaps more appropriate to enter the funerary precinct by passing through the entrance inside the municipal cemetery.
This internal entrance is a wide portal, through which one will immediately see two large apertures; these will be inevitably perceived as intersecting circles or rings in the internal wall facing the point of entry. This first concrete structure has an asymmetrical façade and, on the left, a wall/pilaster that terminates with a corbel and, on the right, a vertical parting wall with the regularly-staggered, overlapping profiling, which is a leitmotiv of the entire work.
It would seem reasonable to attribute, respectively, to the left-hand and right-hand walls of the entrance (the propylaea) the symbolic meanings of beauty and strength, while the two intersecting circles, visible on the inside, are decorated with the colors pink and blue, representing the female and male sexes.
As one walks towards the entrance that leads into the Brion area, one will catch a first glimpse of the long arch that covers the tomb of Giuseppe and Onorina Brion through an opening in the wall that separates the old cemetery from the ground beyond it. The entrance to the propylaea was originally partially veiled by the branches of a fir-tree which died during a very cold winter at the end of 1980s. However, the original plant has now been replaced. As before, one enters the area by brushing past the prickly foliage of the evergreen.
The conifer standing at the point where one might imagine one's crossing into an environment quite separate from that of our everyday life is therefore positioned to reflect the significance of such a moment. Entering the propylaea and moving inwards, one will walk up one of two flights of steps to the level of the inner lawn. At the top of these steps, one enters a long corridor leading off in two opposite directions: to the left, in the direction of the tomb of Giuseppe and Onorina Brion and to the right, towards another external space, which at this point the visitor will not be able to clearly identify on account of the visual barrier created by the wall of the right-hand corridor.
The flight of the five steps in the entrance corridor is markedly offset towards the left-hand side of this initial space (to the right of this ramp one will notice there are only three steps). The heart, located on the left-hand side of the body is where our deepest feelings reside and may be deeply stirred when we return to visit those who have left this world. At this point, where one enters the Brion area, might this not in itself suggest a point where we begin a special journey?
If we step out directly onto the lawn in front of the rings, passing through one of the two circular apertures, and turn around to observe the façade, we will clearly see how the pink and blue mosaic tesserae are used to decorate the external borders of the circles. The colors appear again in the same position, with pink on the left and blue on the right; in this way each of the overlapping rings presents the two colors of the male and female sexes.
Thus, visitors must pass from the old cemetery into the Brion area by walking through this long structure. It presents a masterful modulation of light and shade, which would not be justified however on the functional plane (the roof offers visitors no protection during bad weather) and which reflects and intention to indicate a specific point of separation between the external everyday world and that of the hortus conclusus of the Brion complex.
At various points, there are gaps and slits in the upper covering of the propylaea; these apertures allow beams of light (and also rainwater) to enter the corridor, offering quite a dramatic (and sonorous) effect during sudden summer storms for example as is clearly depicted in a documentary film entitled Memories Causa, produced and published in DVD format by Riccardo de Cal in 2007 for the Benetton Foundation in Treviso.
In the two wings of the propylaea, which lead towards the square pond on the right and towards the sarcophagi beneath the arcosolium on the left, sparkling, greenish yellow (on the right) and golden yellow (on the left) mosaic-like fascia appear along the edges of the end sections of the concrete walls. In certain climatic conditions and especially when lighting flashes occur during thunder storms, these elements will crate a fascinating effect.
Visitors will also find that the building presents its own curious sound effects. While walking towards the arcosolium, the sound of one's footsteps will start to fade, becoming almost unnoticeable, while the underground echoing of footsteps becomes accentuated when walking in the direction of the pond off to the right.
The tomb of Giuseppe and Onorina Brion (the 'Arcosolium')
Carlo Scarpa always called the curved arch which he built above the final resting place of Onorina and Giuseppe Brion the 'arcosolium'; by doing so, he was obviously creating an association with the arches places above burial niches in the Christian catacombs.
This particular kind of arch, the lunette and intrados of which were often decorated with freascoes, would generally be used for higher-ranking members of the early Christian communities.
In the 'arcosolium' created for the Brion tomb, a wide arched pensilina covers two sarcophagi located at the center of what has been referred to as a circular 'lens', lying at a level lower than that of the surrounding open lawn area. The arched covering is composed of four concrete rib elements that span the circular area below, and to which are joined two lateral, outwardly-tapering, suspended 'wings', conferring a sense of elegance and lightness to the whole structure.
Placed between the inner ribs, a series of alabaster plates introduces an ethereal, diaphanous light in the area below the arch. The sarcophagi containing the earthly remains of Giuseppe and Onorina Brion are placed side by side, with Giuseppe on the right and Onorina Tomasin on the left. In noticing the arrangements, we may recall the decorative blue and pink borders of the intersecting rings symbolizing the make/female polarity.
The bases of the sarcophagi are in white Carrara marble, while the sarcophagus casings in flamed, very light purple granite are covered with staves of ebony and decorated with marine brass.
The forms of the two prisms-shaped sarcophagi are distorted in such a manner that they assume the appearance of two rhomboids covering towards the central point of the vault. The lower surfaces of the bases in white marble are moreover not flat, but are shaped in the form of a lens, conveying a suggestion of possible oscillation and reciprocal attraction.
The sarcophagi are in fact positioned very close to each other and the narrow space dividing them allows only one person at a time to pass between the two granite blocks.
The flooring below the sarcophagi is decorated with two strips of black and while, square mosaic tesserae, perhaps reminding the observer that only the force of true love can overcome the sorrows of life. The arch is supported by four stainless steel columns and its intrados is decorated with strips of cobalt blue, green, gold and silver mosaic tesserae with an arrangement in which two cross patterns can be easily recognized.
Leading away from the arcosolium, a slim, linear water course connects the Brion tomb with the large square pond located at the far end of the funerary precinct beyond the propylaea. The water flowing across to the end is fed into the straight concrete channel from a 'spring' created in the shape of small circular bowl. In designing this particular poetical element, Scarpa may have been inspired by an idea expressed by Paul Valéry: "Le don de vivre a repassé dans le fleurs". A dark-green, massive and imposing weeping-willow tree (picea abies 'pendula') stands behind the arcosolium.
This fir-tree always appears in the early drawings made for the Brion project; Scarpa chose this effective positioning for the plant as he wanted it to be seen from many different positions within the precinct.
The Brion family tomb ('edicola dei familiari')
Walking away from the arcosolium in the direction of the crape located on the west side of the funerary precinct, one will notice, to the right, the countryside beyond the perimeter of the cemetery and the hills surrounding Asolo in the distance, a view facilitated by the deliberately adjusted height of the outer wall.
At the edge of the lawn, where the grass-covered area is divided by a transverse lane, a little recess in the side wall of the passageway contains four, overlapping, square steps, the borders of which, from above, form a cross. Descending to the lower level, we are now at the beginning of a long straight path which leads into the portico in front of the chapel. The path is embedded in the open lawn area, to the right of which the slant-roofed, Brion family tomb stands against the outer perimeter wall.
This is along inclined structure which develops out of the external perimeter in which it is set. It has a curious 'hooded' appearance and resembles a flat-roofed building that has been shifted through a 60 degree angle with respect to the longitudinal axis.
One must lower one's head to enter the inner area. Inside, various inscriptions bear the names of a few close relations of the Brion couple: some of these appear on slender and oddly-'fluted', truncated column sections resting on the ground and one appears on a prism-shaped stone on the west side.
At the center, a two-color stone of considerable size presenting the form of a prism, commemorates Maria Toso, an aunt of Giuseppe Brion. A spherical cavity can be seen in the outer edge of this trapezoidal tombstone; Scarpa's idea was to use the receptacle to collect drops of water that would fall with a slow, solemn cadence from a tiny square aperture located in the beam directly above it. A slit in the roofing extends along the full length of the inner space of the tomb, illuminating the whole interior and casting light over the blue black, semi-glass plaster finish of the inner wall sections bordered with strips of concrete.
As often occurred in certain ancient temples, the sky is visible through this slender, extended aperture (templum): an arrangement also reminiscent of the ancient custom of removing a few tiles from the roofing of burial chambers to allow the souls of the dead to abandon their mortal remains.
On the outside, rainwater channeled from the roof is expelled through two bronze water-spout terminations, which look like 'machine-age' animal heads, and is spayed down onto the lawn. One might associate these simple modern 'sculptures' with the grim gargoyles of medieval cathedrals.
The Chapel ('il tempietto')
The entrance to the building dedicated to liturgical services is located at the end of the portico, a covered structure that offers adequate shelter during bad weather. At this point, we might reflect on the promise of protection and 'salvation' offered to those who lead their lives in harmony with the community and the teachings of the church.
The rather more dramatic atmosphere of the solitary routes within the area of the propylaea at the entrance where, given certain climatic conditions, we might catch glimpses of running water and occasional flashes of light, is now behind us.
At the end of the portico, there is a large 'wall' in white concrete, decorated with iron strips and bordering and simple crosses. This partition can be turned on a pivot hinge and, once opened, provides a large entrance to the hall inside, however it is normally drawn back only during funeral services. People occasionally visiting the church will normally use the small, centrally-positioned ebony panel door with a slim vertical window.
The 'narthex' area is situated beyond this outer threshold. From inside the narthex, looking back, one will notice above the small wooden door a horizontal aperture which, when visualized together with the form of the vertical window, can be seen as part of the Tau cross. This type of cross lacks the upper, higher portion of the Christian cross, which in symbolic terms represents the path towards an invisible, higher dimension.
Passing through this small atrium, one enters the main chapel hall through a large circular opening reminiscent of the latter 'omega' of the Greek alphabet. Thus, the entrance to this place of worship and religious ceremony where the officium defuncti is performed can be seen as reproducing a symbol of finality and fulfillment (cf. alpha / omega).
The chapel has the shape of a cubic prism turned through 45° (or sited 'quincuncially') with respect to the lines of the walls of the outer perimeter and the portico; on account of this device, the construction presents only one dihedron pointing towards north, almost as if this corner of the chapel were the prow of a ship intent on venturing into the cold regions of death. The hall appears much larger than it actually is, and this is due to the architectural contrivance of having placed the entrance on the diagonal plane with respect to the square plan form.
The light enters through tall vertical windows that stretch from the floor level to the ceiling. The edges of the 'recesses' within which these slender windows appear are modeled with an obliquely-set, stepped, profile pattern. The glass window panes were mounted using a refined technique which conceals the actual framing itself and so one has the impression of being inside a building without any casings or frames at all: a structure composed of bare walls with 'pleated', staggered edges that instil within the observer a sense of 'echoing', vibrant light.
Around the outside of the chapel a pool of water reflects the sunlight and the sky; the surface of the water send rays of light into the interior with mutating variations that appear across the semi-glass, plastered ceiling, occasionally dancing and flickering with rapidly-changing reflections as occurs across the canals and in the narrow call in Venice.
In the northern corner of the hall, beneath the truncated pyramid-shaped cupola in ebony and pear wood, the bronze altar is bathed in light from the opening above it. At the outer extremity of the corner, beyond the altar, two, very low, flat-panel shutters can be opened to provide a view of the little 'moat' outside and let the light reflected by the water enter the room.
To the left of the altar (facing the area where the congregation would gather), when fitted with its candlestick arms, a gently oscillating pendant chandelier inundates the interior with a soft, pulsating light. With the flickering, growing or suddenly dwindling light of burning candles, we are once again reminded of, and fascinated by, the mystery of live flames (an experience now rarely possible on account of ubiquitous artificial lighting system) as might occur in ceremonies of the Orthodox Church, which, again, would recall the city of Venice, a gateway to the Orient.
On the floor, in front of the altar, a long slab of marble, decorated with a series of black and white strips and four, curved, round bronze insertions, indicates where the coffin would be temporarily laid during a funeral service. To the right of the altar, a doorway leads out to a lawn with eleven cypress trees: a burial ground reserved for members of the clergy. The chapel area is close to the outer wall and the nearby road, allowing it to be easily reached for funeral services conducted for members of the community of San Vito di Altivole.
The Water Pavilion
At the far end of the 'L' configuration (on the west side of the Brion precinct) is a large pool surrounding a 'meditation' pavilion.
The water of the shallow pond is quite dark and the bed is hidden by interweaving aquatic plants and water lilies. Scarpa insisted on achieving this particular effect, which he was able to obtain, after a daunting lack of success, only towards the end of the construction work. He did not want the bottom of the pond to be formed by a slab of concrete but insisted that it should be a muddy impermeable layer that would impede the water from seeping through into the underlying layers of gravel. The result was finally obtained with a thick layer of clay.
Almost at the same time he had identified a solution for the pond, Carlo Scarpa finalised his drawings for the pavilion itself, which had also required a long period of reflection and study, during which he produced various drawings and simulations of perspective. The small structure rises above a concrete platform, which appears to be resting above or actually 'floating' on the water on account of the way in which its supports are drawn back and well concealed below its surface.
The 'roof' of the pavilion, shaped in the form of a prismatic box, is supported by four steel columns, which, in plan-form, are arranged as points of a vortex. The lower portions of the columns are severed at a height of 88 cm and joined to upper sections connected to the covering they support. Seen from the lawn, the structure projects the idea of a baldacchino or canopy composed of a surrounding veil or curtain of dark green panels rhythmically studded with copper nails and completed in the upper portion by a long box of wooden boards positioned to create an effect of perspective convolutions.
To access this area, one has to pass through the tunnel (Orphic flute) of the propylaea. On approaching the glass partition inside the tunnel, the corridor gets narrower and the sound of one's footsteps is echoed and amplified by an underground cavity. The glass door must be pushed down, using the weight of one's body. After passing this point, the partition, now dripping with water, will again rise up and close behind the visitor. The pathway continues across the water, turns to the left (again, the side of the heart) and leads into this small space. The ceiling is crossed by the rods of the supporting structure and golden panels arranged in a form reminiscent of a vortex.
As we stand beneath the canopy, we find that at eye-level it impedes our view of the area outside and we seem to be obliged to cast our gaze down towards the water and the forms and objects in the pool. This position of blindness created by the helmet-like canopy surrounding us thus draws our attention to the 'lake' within our heart; we are forced to contemplate the intricately-shaped, labyrinthine mosaic cross in front of us and, on the right-hand side, the dwarf bamboo plants across the pool of water.
At the center of the canopy, which, in a sense, forms a 'veil' place before us, there is a slit offering a point of vision with two intersecting rings from which we can see the twin tombs on the other side of the precinct. Thus visually isolated, the arcosolium may generate a sense of desolation; for some, the heart-rending sight may conjure up feelings of anguish if experienced in solitude, when one is separated from the warmth and support of collective compassion.
If we turn to sit for a moment on the small bench however, with our eyes now lowered to the level of the heart, the visual veiling effect is cancelled; earth and sky are once again joined and we can observe the pond, the lawn, the arcosolium and the hilly landscape in the distance around Asolo.
Our feelings can now connect with our surrounding physical environment and we become aware of the condition of all human beings. A serene hope of salvation from death may be engendered with our sight and awareness of the suffering of all mankind and the love we may nurture with respect to fellow human beings.
Legend: 1. Propylaea, 2. Entrance hall, 3. Spring of water, 4. Arcosolium and sarcophagi, 5. Parent's chapel, 6. Chapel, 7. Small water pool, 8. Cypress garden, 9. Tomb of Carlo Scarpa, 10. Large water pool, 11. Pavillon, 12. Access from the road, 13. Boundary wall
The general blueprint
The overall planimetric view shows the layout of the complex as it was crated. The drawings were produced by Bianca Albertini, who died prematurely, and Alessandro Bagnoli, two collaborators of Carlo Scarpa.
It was moreover not simply a 'map' provided to identify the points where the 19 photographs were taken but presents an overall view of the complex as it actually was at the end of the construction work. To all effects, the statement is: "this is the way Scarpa built the Brion funerary precinct".
The general plan does however contain some intentional differences with respect to the actual elements that we may now find. For example, besides the chapel narthex, the covering of the irrigation-pump cavity is indicated with an eyelet, which on account of a misunderstanding was produced differently. Scarpa had communicated his instructions by telephone and had not sent a drawing of the detail. Subsequently although regretting this error, he decided not to address the issue and left the results as they were, leaving a reminder of the fact.
The two intersecting rings and their geometrical construction
The motif of the two overlapping circles, which can be found in many parts of the monumental complex, has been interpreted in a variety of ways. One may consider as reliable, on account of its evident nature, the reference made to a bond of love, which is indicated by the colors pink and blue in each ring; Onorina Brion herself also refers to this element in her dedication of the work to her Giuseppe in Scarpa's Memoriae Causa.
The chromatic symbolism becomes all the more feasible and significant when one observes how the two colors maintain the same position (pink on the left and the blue on the right) with respect to the observer standing either inside or outside the corridor of the propylaea; thus it will be noted that each ring contains both colors, thereby expressing how, in an harmonious union, each partner absorbs from the other and lends to the other his/her own qualities.
There is even greater meaning to be discerned from the area of intersection where the two rings overlap. Here, we find the 'sacred almond', in which Christian tradition placed Christ the 'Pantocrator', clearly indicating the association between a narrow doorway and the Redeemer, who is referred to as having said, "ego sum ostium ...".
While refraining from providing an explanation of the symbols of the Brion family sanctuary, we should nevertheless draw attention to the fact that many scholars have avoided an investigation of how well-versed Carlo Scarpa might have been in religious matters, almost as if this were an 'indecent' or – to adopt a less dramatic expression – somewhat 'outmoded' object of interest and, as such, a quest that would not be very useful in an attempt to interpret the meanings underlying his various oeuvres.
It thus occurs that the spiritual enrichment we might attain through observing and absorbing the beauty of his architectural works and their meaning or the entering into a 'dialogue' with Carlo Scarpa, who could become our guide on a possible journey to 'other dimensions', or acquiring an enhanced degree of compassion with respect to the human condition, 'justified' by an 'eros' or spiritual élan that might even lead us to the invisible sources of life become quests so much harder to achieve.
The geometrical construction of the two intersecting rings is clearly shown on the frontispiece of Memoriae Causa. One must first of all trace the first circle and a horizontal line passing through its center. The center of the second circle is given by the intersections between the circumference and the horizontal line; thus the offset is equal to the radius common to the two circumferences. This is a very 'rich' construction on account of its geometric and symbolic implications. Two opposing equilateral triangles can be inscribed within the border of the 'almond', whose side is equal to 'R', while the segment constituting the sum of their two heights forms the side of two new equilateral triangles inscribed within each ring.
The construction graphically renders the ratios V2, V3 and V5. As the radius of each ring in the propylaea is equal to 89,4cm, the base of the enveloping rectangle of both rings should present the measurements 3R= 89,40 cm x 3 = 268,2 cm. However, in the physical structure itself, the offsetting between the two centers amounts to one and a half radii (134,1 cm), thus presenting a difference of 44,7 cm (the base of the rectangle circumscribed being 2R=2R x 89,4 cm = 312,9 cm). Thus, the almond is also much narrower and its minor axis, which in the plaquette appears as 89,4cm, in actual fact becomes 44,7 cm.
What explanation might we offer for the geometrical construction in Memoriae Causa in consideration of the fact it does not correspond with that of the two rings in the building itself? In 1972, Carlo Scarpa studied the plan for a church drawn by Francesco Borromini (Pensiero per la chiesa di S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, pen and water colour, Albertina, 166) and was fully captured by its design.
At that time, the construction of the propylaea had already been completed and a correction of the two rings would have meant demolishing the structure. It is however known that there were occasions when Scarpa would not hesitate to demolish parts of buildings he was not satisfied with; such a situation arose in the Brion chapel, where the altar, originally cast in concrete and oxides, was subsequently created using muntz metal. Carlo Scarpa was in any case quite aware that the 'sacred almond' occurs in Christina iconography with many variations. It would appear that the fact set his mind at rest; however it is also certain that he concluded that the design of propylaea had produced a very successful outcome and enjoyed the result of his work during his frequent visits to the site.
We may reasonably conclude that he wanted to separate the two spheres of attention: that of the eloquence of the forms of each structure and that of the profound significance of the symbolism instilled in the work, the first being of a direct experiential nature, involving the emotions and arousing individual sensibility, and the other abstract, geometric and speculative. Thus, it would appear Carlo Scarpa's aim is to show us that architecture represents a meeting point between two drives: and abstract impulse to create from and the tangible action of the architect, who has the task of designing physical structures (firmitas) in an expressive manner (venustas).
However the existence of a desire without the knowledge needed to realise its goal may lead to pure folly and relying on tekné alone may generate monstrosities; the harmonious blending of these factors is represented by an 'overlapping' of two dimensions; in the Brion sanctuary, this point is represented by the 'doorway' of eros, which, in the Brion sanctuary, Carlo Scarpa depicted as a very narrow threshold, almost as if it were the eye of a needle.
- B. Albertini, S. Bagnoli, Scarpa. L’architettura nel dettaglio, Jaca Book, Milano 1988.
- “L’altra città” di Carlo Scarpa, in “Casabella”, 562 (1989), pp. 25-26.
- Architetti Verona, Materiali su Carlo Scarpa, 4-5 (1980), Ordine degli Architetti di Verona.
- P. Ariès, L’homme devant la mort, Seuil, Paris 1977 (trad. it. a cura di M. Garin, L’uomo e la morte dal Medioevo ad oggi, Laterza, Bari 1980).
- G. Beltramini, L’occhio di Carlo Scarpa, in Carlo Scarpa nella fotografia. Racconti di architetture 1950 - 2004, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini e I. Zannier, Vicenza Museo Palladio - Palazzo Barbaran de Porto 24 settembre 2004 - 9 gennaio 2005, Marsilio, Venezia 2004, pp. 27-33.
- M. Bottero, Carlo Scarpa: lo spazio poetico del cimitero Brion, in “Abitare”, 272 (1989), pp. 208-211.
- La Brion Vega. Rapporto tra industria e ideologia del design, in “Design Habitat” (1973), pp. 40-53.
- M. Brusatin, Carlo Scarpa architetto veneziano, in “Controspazio”, 3-4 (1972), pp. 2-85.
- M. Brusatin, La tomba dell’architetto, in “Eidos”, 1 (1983), p. 189.
- M. Brusatin, Il cimitero di Carlo Scarpa a S. Vito di Altivole, in Ultime dimore, catalogo della mostra a cura di V. Pavan, Verona 13 settembre - 4 ottobre 1987, Arsenale, Venezia 1987, pp. 77-81.
- P. Buchanan, Gardens of Death and Dreams, in “The Architectural Review”, 1063 (1985), pp. 54-59.
- Carlo Scarpa, in “The Architectural Review”, 992 (1973), pp. 393-396.
- Carlo Scarpa architetto poeta, catalogo della mostra a cura di S. Cantacuzino, Londra RIBA - Heinz Gallery 27 febbraio - 12 aprile 1974.
- Carlo Scarpa catalogo della mostra, a cura di A. Neri Pozza, Vicenza Accademia Olimpica marzo -luglio 1974.
- “SD (Space Design)”, 6 (1977), (numero monografico dedicato a Carlo Scarpa).
- “AMC Architecture Mouvement Continuità”, 50 (1979), (numero monografico su Carlo Scarpa).
- Carlo Scarpa. Disegni, catalogo della mostra, Roma Accademia di San Luca 18 giugno - 7 luglio 1979.
- Carlo Scarpa. Frammenti 1926 - 1978, in “Rassegna”, 7 (1981), (nu¬mero monografico dedicato a Carlo Scarpa).
- “Progressive Architecture”, 5 (1981), (numero monografico su Carlo Scarpa).
- “Quaderns d’arquitectura i urbaniste”, 185 (1983), (numero monografico su Carlo Scarpa).
- Carlo Scarpa, a cura di A. F. Marcianò, Zanichelli, Bologna.
- Carlo Scarpa: Drawings far the Brion Family Cemetery, catalogo della mostra, New Haven Yale School of Architecture 22 ottobre - 23 novembre 1984.
- Carlo Scarpa. Opera completa, a cura di F. Dal Co e G. Maz¬zariol, Electa, Milano 1984.
- Carlo Scarpa, in “A&U Extra Edition”, 10 (1985), (numero monografi¬co dedicato a Carlo Scarpa).
- Carlo Scarpa. Histoires comme experience, in “Le cahiers de la recherche architecturale”, 19 (1986), (numero monografico dedicato a Carlo Scarpa).
- Carlo Scarpa. Die andere Stadt, catalogo della mostra a cura di P. Duboy, P. Noever, Vienna 12 ottobre 1989 - 15 gennaio 1990, Berlino - Vienna 1989.
- Carlo Scarpa Architect: Intervening with History, catalogo della mostra a cura di N. Olsberg, Montreal Canadian Center for Architecture, Monacelli, New York 1999.
- Carlo Scarpa. Mostre e Musei 1944 - 1976. Case e paesaggi 1972 - 1918, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini, K.W. Forster e P. Marini, Verona - Vicenza ottobre 2000, Electa, Milano 2000.
- Carlo Scarpa. Das Handwerk der Architektur. The Craft of Architecture, catalogo della mostra a cura di P. Noever, Vienna Museum fur Angewandte Kunst 9 aprile - 23 novembre 2003.
- Carlo Scarpa nella fotografia. Racconti di architetture 1950 - 2004, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini e I. Zannier, Vicenza Museo Palladio - Palazzo Barbaran de Porto 24 settembre 2004 - 9 gennaio 2005, Marsilio,Venezia 2004.
- Carlo Scarpa. Atlante delle Architetture, a cura di G. Beltramini, I. Zannier, Centro Internazionale di Studio di Architettura Andrea Palladio e Regione del Veneto, Marsilio, Venezia 2006.
- Carlo Scarpa. I disegni per la Tomba Brion. Inventario, a cura di E. Terenzoni, Electa, Milano 2006.
- Memoriae Causa. Carlo Scarpa e il complesso monumentale Brion 1969 - 1978, catalogo della mostra a cura di Fondazione Benetton Iniziative Culturali, A. Vescovi e G. Pietropoli, Treviso Palazzo Bomben 20 gennaio - 18 marzo 2007.
- D. G. R. Carugati, Brionvega: progetto l’emozione, Electa, Milano 2003.
- Cemetery Brion-Vega, San Vito di Altivole, Treviso 1969 - 72, in “GA Global Architecture”, 50 (1979), (numero monografico dedicato al complesso Brion).
- M. A. Crippa, Carlo Scarpa, il pensiero, i disegni, i progetti, Jaka Book, Milano 1984.
- F. Dal Co, Carlo Scarpa, in “Quaderns d’arquitectura i urbanisme”, 158 (1983), pp. 90-93.
- F. Dal Co, Carlo Scarpa il mestiere dell’architetto, in Interpretazioni veneziane. Studi di storia dell’arte in onore di Michelangelo Muraro, a cura di D. Rosane, Arsenale, Venezia 1984, pp. 481-494.
- F. Dal Co, Die Reifezeit des Carlo Scarpa, in “Deutsche Bauzeischrift”, 8 (1995), pp. 126-133.
- F. Dal Co, Villa Ottolenghi. Carlo Scarpa, Monacelli, New York 1998.
- A. De Eccher, G. Del Zotto, Venezia e il Veneto, l’opera di Carlo Scarpa, Clupguide, Milano 1994.
- F. del Corral del Campo, Las formas del agua en la arquitectura de Carlo Scarpa (tesi di dottorato), Departimento Expression Grafica Arquitectonica y en la Ingenieria. Esquela Tècnica Superior de Arquitectura de Granata.
- C. De Seta, Voleva costruire una piramide, in “Corriere della sera”, 15 agosto 1984.
- G. Dodds, Desiring Landscapes/Landscapes of Desire: Scopic and Somatic in the Brion Sanctuary, in Body and Building: Essays on the Changing Relation of Body and Architecture, MIT press, Londra 2002, pp. 238-256.
- P. Duboy, Locus Solus, Carlo Scarpa et le cimetière de San Vito d’Altivole (1969 - 75), in “L’architecture d’aujourd’hui”, 181 (1975), pp. 73-86.
- P. Duboy, Dio è nel particolare. La tomba di Carlo Scarpa, in “Gran Bazaar”, 1-2 (1984), pp. 9-13.
- P. Duboy, Chronique d’un Amour, in “GA Documents”, 21 (1988), pp. 9-13.
- R. Elwall, From the RIBA Photographs Collection. Grave Concems: Architect Carlo Scarpa, in “RIBA Journal”, 12 (2000), p. 110.
- F. Fonatti, Elemente des Bauens bei Carlo Scarpa, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna 1985.
- K. Frampton, Studies in tectonic culture. The poetics of costruction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century architecture, MIT Press, Cambridge (USA) 1996 (trad. it. a cura di M. Benedetti, Tettonica e architettura. Poetica della forma architettonica nel XIX e XX secolo, Skira, Milano 1999).
- M. Frascari, Architectural Traces of an Admirable Cipher: Eleven on the Opus of Carlo Scarpa, in “Nexus Network Journal”, 1 (1999), pp. 7-21.
- Y. Futagawa Carlo Scarpa. Selected Drawings, in “GA Documents”, 21 (1988), pp. 46-48.
- O. Gaburri, Se son rose fioriranno: i giardini di Carlo Scarpa, in “Architettura di Paesaggio”, 4 (2000), pp. 15-19.
- Great Drawings from the Collection: Heinz Gallery inaugural exhibition, catalogo della mostra, Londra RIBA - Heinz Gallery 1972.
- A. Irvine, Ricordo Carlo Scarpa, in M. Barovier, Carlo Scarpa. I vetri di un architetto, Skira, Milano 1997, pp. 25-26.
- T. Itoh, Brion Family Cemetery. Scenes in sequence, in “A&U Architecture and Urbanism”, 1 (1986), pp. 8-9.
- P. Joly, Scarpa “L’ornemente est un crime”, in “L’Oeil”, 233 (1974), pp. 30-34.
- O. Lanzarini, I giardini di Carlo Scarpa, in “Vernissage. Il Fotogiornale dell’Arte”, 31 (2002), p. 5.
- O. Lanzarini, Carlo Scarpa. L’architetto e le arti, Marsilio, Venezia 2003.
- O. Lanzarini, Villa Zoppas in località Monticella, Conegliano Veneto (Treviso) 1953, in Andrea Palladio e la villa veneta da Petrarca a Carlo Scarpa, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini e H. Burns, Vicenza 5 marzo - 3 luglio 2005, Marsilio, Venezia 2005, p. 439.
- S. Los, Carlo Scarpa, Taschen, Köln 1994.
- S. Los, Carlo Scarpa, guida all’architettura, Arsenale, Verona 1995.
- Carlo Scarpa, I Musei, Testo & Immagine, Torino 2004
- P. L. Nicolin, La sua opera più importante. Carlo Scarpa: cimitero-tomba Brion di San Vito di Altivole, in “Lotus International”, 38 (1983), pp. 45-53.
- G. Pietropoli, L’invitation au voyage, in “Spazio e Società”, 50 (1990), pp. 90-97
- G. Pietropoli, Se son rose fioriranno, in Carlo Scarpa ed il Palazzetto di Monselice, catalogo della mostra, Tokyo Watari-Um maggio - agosto 1993.
- G. Pietropoli, Il disegno nell’opera di Carlo Scarpa, in Carlo Scarpa. Mostre e Musei 1944 - 1976. Case e paesaggi 1972 - 1918, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini, K.W. Forster e P. Marini, Verona - Vicenza ottobre 2000, Electa, Milano 2000, pp. 57-72.
- G. Pietropoli, Viaggio nell’altra città: un percorso all’interno della Tomba Brion, in Carlo Scarpa. Mostre e Musei 1944 - 1976. Case e paesaggi 1972 - 1918, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini, K.W. Forster e P. Marini, Verona - Vicenza ottobre 2000, Electa, Milano 2000, pp. 366-370.
- G. Pietropoli, Carlo Scarpa mostra se stesso: Venezia 1968, Londra e Vicenza 1974, Parigi 1975, in Studi su Carlo Scarpa 2000 - 2002, a cura di K. W. Forster, P. Marini e Regione del Veneto, Marsilio, Venezia 2004, pp. 317-350.
- M. Pogacnik, La dissolution de la grande forme, in “Faces”, 47 (1999 - 2000), pp. 14-23 e 41-44.
- S. Poretti, Brutalismi raffinati, in “do.co.mo.mo. italia”, X, 17, p. 1.
- P. Portoghesi, In ricordo di Carlo Scarpa, in “Controspazio”, 3 (1979), pp. 2-5 (ripubblicato in “GA Global Architecture”, 50 (1979), pp. 1-6 e in “Controspazio”, (1989), pp. 114-119).
- F. Lambert et. al., Cimetières, in “D’Architecture”, 34 (1993), pp. 28-35.
- G. Rossini, Due progetti di Carlo Scarpa per Genova: il teatro Carlo Felice e la tomba Galli, in Carlo Scarpa. L’opera e la sua conservazione (Giornate di studio alla Fondazione Querini Stampalia V. 2000), a cura di M. Manzelle, Cicero, Venezia 2003, pp. 29-48.
- Y. Saito, Carlo Scarpa, TOTO Shuppan, Tokyo 1997.
- P. C. Santini, Architettura per una Tomba, in “Ottagono”, 26 (1972), pp. 94-97.
- P. C. Santini, Scarpiana, in “Casabella”, 374 (1973), pp. 42-47.
- P. C. Santini, Costruire con l’acqua, in “Ottagono”, 73 (1984), pp. 34-41.
- C. Scarpa, Volevo ritagliare l’azzurro del cielo, in “Quaderns d’arquitecture atc”, 158 (1983), pp. 21-25.
- C. Scarpa, Memoriae Causa, Stamperia Valdonega, Verona 1977.
- C. N. Schulz, Il linguaggio della memoria, in L’architettura come monumento e memoria, a cura di V. Pavan, Arsenale, Venezia 1987, pp. 25-44.
- M. Scimemi, Carlo Scarpa, Edicola funebre Galli, cimitero di Sant’Ilario Alto Nervi, Genova, in In cima. Giuseppe Terragni per Margherita Sarfatti. Architetture della memoria del ‘900, catalogo della mostra a cura di J. T. Schnapp, Vicenza Museo Palladio 27 giugno 2004 - 9 gennaio 2005, Marsilio, Venezia 2004, p. 139.
- C. Sonego, Carlo Scarpa. Gli anni di formazione (tesi di laurea), relatore M. De Michelis, Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, a.a. 1994 - 1995.
- C. Sonego, Carlo Scarpa: gli anni ’20, in Studi su Carlo Scarpa 2000 - 2002, a cura di K. W. Forster, P. Marini e Regione del Veneto, Marsilio, Venezia 2004, pp. 27-83.
- M. A. Stern, Passage in the Garden: An Iconology of the Brion Tomb, in “Landscape Journal”, 13 (1994), pp. 38-57.
- M. Tafuri, Les Muses inquiétantes, in “L’architecture d’aujourd’hui”, 181 (1975), pp. 14-33.
- M. Tafuri, Il frammento, la “figura”, il gioco Carlo Scarpa e la cultura architettonica italiana, in Carlo Scarpa. Opera completa, a cura di F. Dal Co e G. Mazzariol, Electa, Milano 1984, pp. 72-95.
- S. Takamatsu, A Holy Slaughter Spot. The Cemetery Brion-Vega in Winter, in Carlo Scarpa, in “A&U Extra Edition”, 10 (1985), (numero monografico dedicato a Carlo Scarpa), p. 213.
- F. Tentori, Cronache: Carlo Scarpa, in “Casabella”, 443 (1979).
- G. Teyssot, Frammenti per un discorso funebre. L’architettura come lavoro di lutto, in “Lotus”, 38 (1983), pp. 5-17.
- G. Tommasi, Una obra de Carlo Scarpa, in “Quaderns d’arquitectura i urbanisme”, 158 (1983), pp. 70-76.
- G. Tommasi, Note su villa Ottolenghi, in Carlo Scarpa. Mostre e Musei 1944 - 1976. Case e paesaggi 1972 - 1918, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini, K.W. Forster e P. Marini, Verona - Vicenza ottobre 2000, Electa, Milano
- 2000, pp. 402-411.
- H. Toyoda, Towards Poetry. The work of Carlo Scarpa, in Y. Saito, Carlo Scarpa, TOTO Shuppan, Tokyo 1997, pp. 229-240.
- Un’ora con Carlo Scarpa, intervista girata nel 1971 e trasmessa da RAI 3 (pubblicata in parte in Carlo Scarpa: tomba monumentale Brion, il rilievo 1998 - 2000, cd-rom allegato a “Casabella”, 678 (2000).
- “We needed a poet. An interwiew with Ennio Brion”, (intervista ad Ennio Brion in data 27 settembre 1996), in Y. Saito, Carlo Scarpa, TOTO Shuppan, Tokyo 1997, pp. 145-155.
- V. Zanchettin, Tomba Brion, cimitero di San Vito d’Altivole (Treviso), 1970 - 78, in Carlo Scarpa. Mostre e Musei 1944 - 1976. Case e paesaggi 1972 - 1918, catalogo della mostra a cura di G. Beltramini, K.W. Forster e P. Marini, Verona - Vicenza ottobre 2000, Electa, Milano 2000, pp. 362-365 e 371-382.
- V. Zanchettin, Carlo Scarpa: Il complesso monumentale Brion, Marsilio.
- Roger H. Clark and Michael Pause. Precedents in Architecture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1985. ISBN 0-442-21668-8. LC 84-3543. NA2750.C55 1984. double center diagram, p200.
- Donald Corner and Jenny Young. Slide from photographer's collection. PCD.2260.1012.1842.27. PCD.2260.1012.1842.28.
- Maria Antonietta Crippa, Marina Loffi Randolin, ed. Carlo Scarpa: Theory Design Projects. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1986. NA 1123 .S35 C7513 1986. ISBN 0-262-03117-5. LC 85-23946. p17, 61.
- Toshio Nakamura, ed. Architecture and Urbanism Extra Edition: Carlo Scarpa. A+ U E8510, October, 1985. Tokyo: A + U Publishing Co.. Color photo, general view of the chapel seen from the altar, p161. Color photo of the tomb of the Brions, p144. Color photo of family tomb, the Brions tomb and chapel, p153.
- Peter Nover, ed. The Other City Carlo Scarpa: The Architect's Working Method as Shown by the Brion Cemetery in San Vito D'Avitole. Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1989. ISBN 3-433-02097-3. NA1233.S35A4 1989. p17-18.
- Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2438-3. NA680.S517. exterior photo, p297.
- Duane Siegrist, University of Oregon. Slide from photographer's collection, July 1993. PCD.3236.1011.0837.049. PCD.3236.1011.0837.048. PCD.3236.1011.0837.055.
- Alene Stickles, University of Oregon. Slide from photographer's collection, July 1993. PCD.3189.1011.1916.106, entrance from village cemetery. PCD.3189.1011.1916.107, tomb of Brion couple.
- Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.
Find more about the Tomba Brion and Carlo Scarpa on:
- Centro Carlo Scarpa di Treviso
- Museo di Castelvecchio - Archivio Carlo Scarpa
- Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali: Archive of the Carlo Scarpa's sketches for the Brion Tomb
- MIMOA Mi modern architecture
- The Italian way | Stunning photos of the Brion Tomb
- Flickr Album of Panovscott "Brion Vega Cemetery, San Vito d'Altivole" Pages 102, 103, 104
- All the albums in Flick related to the Brion Tomb
- MarcaDoc | Tourism, Info, Culture in the Treviso Province
- Architecture Lab | Online magazine: Brion-Vega Cemetery, Carlo Scarpa
- Wallpaper | Design-Interiors-Fashion-Art-Style: Brion-Vega Cemetery, Carlo Scarpa
- Great Buildings | Brion-Vega Cemetery
- Achiplanet.org | Brion-Vega Cemetery
- The Gorgeous Daily | Photos of the tomb in black and white
- Irwin Miller | 80 photos of the tomb
- Facebook: Pagina «Tomba Brion_Carlo Scarpa»
- Facebook: «Tomba Brion»
More pictures of the tomb and details:
Texts: Guido Pietropoli
Photos: Guido Pietropoli and Enrico Renai from the book Memoriae Causa (Verona 1977)
Plan of the Tomb: Bianca Albertini delineavit
Translations: Stephen Pastorello