“I believe that when the architecture appears the aim to be able to be trasmitida, of being able to interpret the situations of the reality and places inside the historical rational process, it is in conditions to have progressive character”.
From the 60s, Aldo Rossi‘s texts express a way of seeing the architecture that contradicts the unidirectional criterion of the modern movement. His worry for a logical construction, though it reveals in some sense a candid vision of the architecture, spilt a digest of notions that re-opened an architectural stagnant debate.
The progressive character, in Rossi’s idea, is tied to the search of a timeless architecture constructed with few elements that come from archetypes of the collective memory. Rossi understands every project as a part of the city, and as such, must be a result of the historical and technical character of the architecture that constitutes it. This critical attention to the facts of the city concludes in an architecture that it is a consequence of sifting the forms of the local history:
“the continuous redesign of the fixed elements: the portico, the gallery, the bucket, the cone, the columns that consist and get over up to forming the royal and daily elements, in the moment that they get down or choose ““il locus” in that they must be realized and even for the one that they have not been thought, is when it transforms in architecture”.2
In 1971, when it was formalized called contest for the extension of San Cataldo’s Cemetery in Módena, Rossi was convalescent of a car accident. This circumstance turned out to be determinant in the structure of the project:
“it was in the ground floor, in a small room, close to a window across which it saw the sky and a small garden. Almost immobile, he was thinking about the past, but also he was contemplating the tree and the sky without thinking about anything. This presence and, at the same time, this distance of the things – close, in addition, to the painful conscience of my own bones – was transporting me to the infancy. To the following summer, during the study of the project, just there was preserving this image and the recollection of the aching bones: it saw the conformation osteológica of the body as a series of fractures to re-composing. In the hospital Slawonski Brod identifies the death with the morphology of the skeleton and the alterations of which it can be an object.”
Rossi together with Braghieri presented the project under the motto “L’azurro del cielo” inspired by the novel of the french writer Georges Bataille “Le bleu du ciel”. A statement that he speaks on the learning of the death and the absorbent depth of the blue sky, written in 1935 and published in 1957.
The area where the work will be constructed locates to one of the sides of a former cemetery constructed by Cesare Costa in 1880, one building perimetral that was enclosing a great space opened in his interior. In the middle of both plots one finds the Jewish Cemetery. The project repeats the characteristics of the Cemetery Coast but the plant is established like the historical Roman cities, across two perpendicular axes.
Imbued with the recollection of his demurrage in the hospital, Rossi thinks a system similar to that of a deposited body. It establishes the limit with the city by means of a construction perimetral in the shape of “U”. The backbone of the project arranges the elementary geometries used in the plant: square, triangle and I circulate. Also it arranges the tour. A portico indicates the place of access; the sequence continues with the ossuary in the shape of bucket; the columbarios with form of paralelepípedos, located in a way perpendicular to the axis in a sequence of diminishing order in size and increasing in height, so that the longest constructions are the lowest and on the contrary, the smallest are the highest; and the central pit, an enormous cone that crowns the tour. A portico indicates the place of access; the sequence continues with the ossuary in the shape of bucket; the columbarios with form of paralelepípedos, located in a way perpendicular to the axis in a sequence of diminishing order in size and increasing in height, so that the longest constructions are the lowest and on the contrary, the smallest are the highest; and the central pit, an enormous cone that crowns the tour. The bucket and the cone come out the composition to transform in urban references.
This backbone is the vertebral column of the ossified structure that it plans in plant. A succession of elements tipológicos that have neither scale nor time, foreign to a context. The vain squares heightened in the walls are elements on a large scale variable. They reveal figures that have similarity with the pictorial urban compositions that Mario Sironi realized in the decade of 20.
The portico of access has monumental character. It is aligned in plant and height to three levels of the construction perimetral. It is the analogy of a classic portico: two massive bodies to every side support a ceiling to two waters placed in inverse sense to the classic one and a series of planes of concrete arranged in a transverse way replace the cylindrical traditional columns.
The ossuary is the element distinguished from the composition. It was conceived as an empty bucket, without ceiling, with vain without windows. An unfinished construction that exemplifies the absence of life. The treatment of the light leaked in the vain ones, Rossi relates it to Angelo Morbelli‘s paintings:
“Always the pictures had impressed me as il natale dei rimasti and Pio Albergo Trivulzo, of Angelo Morbelli: it was observing them fascinated without being able to judge them. Now I was served them as plastic and figurative, useful means for this project.The study of the lights, the big beams that fall down on the banks, the precise shades of the geometric figures of the same banks and of the stove, everything seemed to be extracted from a manual of theory of the shades … Always I bore in mind this hospice during the draft of Módena’s project, and the light that penetrates for his windows is the same that in that one it crosses, with precise beams the section of the bucket. It was in end a construction left in that the life was stopped, the work was staying in suspense, the own institution was becoming uncertain”.3
The blocks of columbarios personalize the conformation osteológica. Located to every side of the backbone, his progressive height provides an increasing tension, recreating the typologyc disposition of other historical cemeteries.
El cono tiene carácter monumental. Representa un memorial a los muertos abandonados en la guerra. En los subsuelos se propuso una fosa común que nunca fue construida.
“Rossi uses forms icónicas, but emptying them of his iconicidad by means of the repetition, a technology that mines the aura and the singularity of the architectural elements. When it is extracted to these elements of his aesthetic and functional context, they can use potentially as textual elements. His visual importance meets mined by means of the repetition of archetypal elements that do not have a fixed or certain scale. Rossi obtains changes on a large scale of several manners, both in the drawings and in the buildings”.4
Between 1971 – year that rewarded the contest – and the beginning of his construction in 1978, the project suffered several alterations, though always it preserved the central street, which invokes the solemnity of a dramatic space according to the ritual of the Italian tradition. The project of Rossi and Braghieri only was constructed partially – the pavilions perimetrales, the portico and the ossuary – but it demonstrates indications of the enormous expressive force of the global composition.
Rossi is nourished of the urban reality to recreate the classic monumentalidad happening his analogical vision. His works assume the challenge of recovering the identity of the city by means of a semantics that arises from the rational reading of his urban facts. Nevertheless, the project for Módena’s cemetery comes out for the expressiveness of his drawings, in which Rossi, more that to represent a building, exposes the force of an idea.
Marcelo Gardinetti . architect
La Plata. April 2018
1 Conversación con Aldo Rossi. 2C Construcción de la ciudad, 1972 N° 2/5, pag. 9
2 Braghieri, Gianni. Aldo Rossi, Editorial Gustavo Gilli, 1981, pág. 13
3 Rossi, Aldo. Autobiografía científica, Editorial Gustavo Gilli, Barcelona, pag. 22
4 Eisenman, Peter. Diez edificios canónicos, Editorial Gustavo Gilli, Barcelona, 2011, pag.184