A deep breath: Tomba Brion

Written by Federica Marziale
Photo by Claudia Zalla

Week 43

We’re in front of a complex architectural entity with important symbolic value, where geometry does not only act as aesthetic support, but is skilfully studied to invoke intense emotion; a solemn funeral complex where every architectural element summons poetic meaning. Concrete architecture designed with a graphic-decorative purpose that can soften the rigid silhouettes and surfaces to show the poetry hidden within details. It’s a mystic site where everything is meant for the souls of the departed. The architecture of each building transcends the tangible, as it interacts with what is there, but what is also invisible to the eye.

The municipal cemetery designed by Carlo Scarpa – appointed by Onorina Brion Tomasi in 1969 to celebrate the memory of his beloved Giuseppe Brion – is a testament to the importance of atmosphere, and subsequently architectural form that invokes peace, silence, meditation, solitude and love. The weightiness of the raw concrete contrasts with the light, sky and reflective pools, which help transform the grey atmosphere, stimulating emotional reverie and hope.

The architecture is incredible in its geometrical design, in the richness of the details and for the considered study of pathways that slow ones walk, and encourage one to consider the significance of each symbol they encounter. What is also notable is the attention given to the landscape and positioning the compound between Monte Grappa and the hills around Asolo and dividing it into five sections: the Propilei, the Arcosolio, the Edicola, the Cappella and the Padiglione dedicated to meditation. To visit each spot, one must walk the lower, intimate path at ground level and then follow the higher path through sunny fields for an open-air celebration.

Designing Giuseppe Brion’s and Onorina Brion Tomasi’s tombs, inclined towards each other, defying austere heaviness, is to know the yearning of love and being able to express it through complex architectural form. Designing great sounds, as a prelude for visitors to the souls of the departed means believing in what we don’t see but what is around us. Transforming an entrance into an exit, using the Omega sign, means to have reflected on passing away, and helps nurture a profound respect for what we don’t know. Then, designing the fissure that continues on the peak line of the Edicola, recalls the tradition to remove tiles from the roof to let the soul ascend to the sky, glorifying the magnificent picture of two geometric rings that interlock with each other. All these details demonstrate the perceptiveness of narrative architecture to describe a place that doesn’t celebrate itself but rather the atmosphere of life – breathing, living and meditating.

The oppressive concrete is transformed by diverse volumes of light, and by using a broad range of materials: from water to ebony, from bronze to pear tree wood, and from check tiles to colourful upholsteries. It interlocks, it interrupts and overlaps to create complex but significant structures: pyramidal domes, water suspended pavilions, open arches, submerged steps, doors and gaps of light, windows that never end and simply aim for the sky.

The exquisite Tomba Brion is like a deep breath, so deep that it reaches the soul and the invisible.

Claudia Zalla is an Italian photographer working and living in Milan in the fields of fashion and design, collaborating with brands and magazines.
Her own personal research focuses on urban landscape and interaction between places and people.