Even if the Italian region of Veneto is mostly known for its wonderful cities such as Venice and Verona, its prestigious universities most of which are set in Padua and its gorgeous country side underpinned by glorious villas built by the famous architect Andrea Palladio, there’s much more than just this.
In fact, Veneto is a sort of cultural melting pot which because of its strategic position in the North East of Italy, on the coast but under the most beautiful mountains, the Dolomites, as well, took influences coming from each one of its very different boarders.
Looking at the history, it seems like a lot of great minds were produced in this idillic place which used to be the Republic of Venice, but even after its end. One of these beautiful minds was with no doubt architect Carlo Scarpa.
Venetian born, he never left Veneto, building his work around the main cities of the region.
The work that could be considered his final and most complete one is called Tomba (tomb) Brion. Onorina, who commissioned it to the amazing Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, did that in order to commemorate the death of her beloved husband and founder of Brionvega, old enterprise of radios based in our region.
She gave it to be done in 1969 but the actual construction was done between 1970 and 1978, which makes it one of the very last pieces made by Scarpa before his tragical death in 1979.
The funerary complex is inside of a very small cemetery in a small village close to Asolo, another village under Vicenza’s House Hall.
The tomb was thought as a way to go through and not just a unique building.
A maniacal coherence is done by the theme of the grooves which are everywhere, from the blocks of concrete that create the main structure to the details of the doors and windows in the chapel. When you first get in at the beginning of the way, after three steps of stairs that are placed not in the centre of the hall but slightly aside to allow the water to follow from the first big long hole in the ceiling (there are many more all around the way, perfectly parallel to holes in the ground to allow the water in excess to flow away from the floor) you get in front of two circles, one blue and one red that represent the union of wife and husband, who are buried here together.
A little corridor on one side (the right) goes to the private part of the tomb, dedicated to the family and whose way is indicated as not to be taken from a tile in the ground which makes noise if you walk on it. Anyway, you can have a great vision of that part of the monument from outside, the garden, where you also see the little porch that is accessible from a walk on the water which reminds a lot a Japanese garden…
On the other side (the left) the way keeps going and it brings you to the actual tombs of Brion and his wife who is not yet there with him… They are under a porch decorated with the same colored glass that decorated the circles at the beginning and other details of the structure… They are one in front of the other as Scarpa wanted to give the feeling of two people waving hello to each other from a small distance…
Going on with the established way and discovering many more details all around, there’s the part dedicated to the relatives, much more different from the previous one, where the squared blocks e predominant and dark colors like blue and green are sometimes highlighted by blades of sun coming from the studied holes in the structured which explains why Scarpa used to be defined as “master of the light”…
Going there is the chapel dedicated to public functions, a small building that was thought to look like a sort of boat and which is in fact surrounded by water, over which you can walk thanks to the tile tiles on it: they are also shaped with the grooves that are the main theme of the all complex. Some of them are also under the water, wanting to simulate a sort of town under the water surface as Scarpa was a man of culture, very well aware of the legends about the mythical underwater cities existing in myths and stories.
The chapel and its details are incredibly accurate and it’s also full of symbols to be interpret, such as the Omega which you have to pass under to get inside and which symbolizes the end of the life as it’s the last letter of the Greek alphabet and therefor the end of it… Going out from the chapel keeping on walking on the water the visitor gets to the so called “no men’s land”: an in-between space among the public one of the cemetery and the private one dedicated to Brion where Carlo Scarpa himself rests in peace, buried standing as a Japanese soldier.
Tomba Brion is not only a great example of Scarpa’s architecture and his most complete work, but also one of the most beautiful monuments of the past century in the whole Italy.
Text and pics by: Carlotta Buosi