Carlo Scarpa The symbolism of water and the meaning of life and death in the Brion Cemetery
Slawomir Turek 2014
Slawomir Turek K1129471
The symbolism of water and the meaning of life and death in the Brion Cemetery
5 Introduction: Can Architecture Be Poetry? An introduction to the study of the Brion cemetery, highlighting the possible true significances and opinions regarding the symbolic values of the cemetery 8 Chapter 1: Symbolic Significance of Water Discussion on the symbolism of water in the wider context of study, referring to philosophical views and religious meaning 17
Chapter 2: Water and Stone
Discussion on the architectural values of Brion, describing the physical and spiritual quality of the complex and relating it to the study of water 27 Chapter 3: Death and Living Specific relation between the architectural features of Brion cemetery and the theme of death and living, discussion on possible meanings and symbolic values of the architecture and water and their contribution to the theme 31 Conclusion: The Journey of Spirit, Scarpas Legacy A conclusion of the studied theories related to the design, its physical and the spiritual values.
Word Count: 6988
Can Architecture Be Poetry? Introduction
Can Architecture Be Poetry?
Figure 1. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Water Channel Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) The location of water channel and its three basins in the Brion garden, showing
nel begins with a dry basin continuing to a half full larger basin and finally, one full of water from where the channel has its spring.
The design of the Brion Cemetery is a representation of a monument that testifies to the independence of architecture in the face of any philosophical engagements. The design was disregarded and criticized when it was built, representing a sort of treatise that symbolizes Scarpas theoretical approach and complex architectural forms.1 This approach very much derives from surveys, tours and studies that the architect has done during his lifetime. The Brion Cemetery is a conclusion of Scarpas architectural studies of Japanese architecture, architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and Italian literature.2 Architects studies show a pattern of work which sees end of one research and beginning another. The classical medium of Scarpas architectural composition became more evident over the years, especially in his latest works. Scarpa was a brilliant architect with a vast store of knowledge of materials and their use. That excellent skill did not stop the architect from further experimenting with different materials. This talent was acquired from a constant need of testing the extent of traditional methods.3 This is sort of experimental use of materials is a method of the architect’s personal alchemy. The architect’s work represents a well-formed organization that endured the critical image of each passing avant-garde.4 It is an architecture that meant to establish a language between the past and the future, one that is built to last. His references to classical architecture, which can be recognised in his latest work, actually shows how the obsessive claims of ‘Zeigeist’ or spirit of time opened to his design new potential and allowed the architect freedom that he could not enjoy otherwise.5 Scarpa often admitted that: “He was pursuing an architecture made of nothing, as if it were possible to attain in architecture that state of lightness that Italo Calvino was pursuing in literature.”6 Scarpas curiosity towards every different aspect of crafted skill caused the trails that comprise his library, a complex source of his nomadic interests and a Wunderkammer or the cabinet of curiosities of knowledge that he combined over the years.7 It is not enough to have a collection of thousands of Scarpas books: One must follow up the actual clues he left in his designs and studies in order to rediscover the trails that led him to some of the sources of his imagination. This dissertation is a personal trial to deciphering what is behind the Scarpas approach towards the Brion cemetery. The purpose of the essay is to try to understand the complexity of the influences that motivated Carlo Scarpa in his work. It is a strictly philosophical study of his architectural genius, a study that concentrates on one aspect of the Brion Cemetery, water. This element as a whole is not 1
Sergio Los, Carlo Scarpa an architectural guide (Verona, Arsenale Editrice, 2007) p.95. Los, p.89. 3 Guido Baltramini, Italo Zannier, Carlo Scarpa: Architecture and Design (New York, Rizzoli, 2007) p.22. 4 Los, p.89. 5 Los, p.89. 6 Los, p.89. 7 Baltramini, Zannier, p.24. 2
a key architectural motor that pushed Scarpas design; nevertheless, it is an element that makes a big part in the cemetery design and the architectâ€™s life. The further chapters grasp on religious views and philosophical studies of philosophers such as: Gaston Bachelard, Edgar Allan Poe and Mircea Eliade, who have described water not only in terms of its physical form, but as a poetic mediator that creates everything that exists. Therefore, the text tries to argue that it is not solid concrete that makes up the Brion complex and frames the water around it, but it is the water that creates the cemetery and reflects the concrete within it, producing a poetic image that shows the true meaning of the design. Water is a mirror that illustrates a real image; it is a mediator between what is living and what is dead. Figure 2. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Treviso, Drawing
(25 June 2013) Axonometric
of the brion cemetery. A representation of layout and architectural
PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT
Figure 3. Brion Cemetery, Site plan, Drawing by author (10 August 2013)
the layout Cemetery. to
PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT
2 5 6
1. Old Town Cemetery 2. Brion Cemetery Entrance 3. Pavilion Of Meditation
4. Tomb Brion 5. Carlo Scarpa’s Grave 6. Brion Family Tomb 7. Burial Chapel
7 PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT
Symbolic Significance of Water Chapter One
Symbolic Significance of Water “Only when one is able to master stone and water can one be a real architect.”- Carlo Scarpa In the works of Carlo Scarpa natural elements are often used as a material for composition of his work. Many of the architects’ designs are composed with the use of water as a certain decorative element with attached symbolic significance. The use of water in the Brion Cemetery is purely symbolical; it is an element that guides the visitors around the complex and its gardens. 8 The use of water in the design is a simple reflection of Scarpas intelligence and his studies of traditional Japanese architecture to which he often came back. 9 Carlo Scarpa describes his design as: “The place for the dead in a garden. I wanted to show some ways in which you could approach death in a social and civic way; and further what meaning there was in death, in the ephemerality of life.”10 It is important to point out that the uses of water in Scarpa’s designs are usually supplemented with rich stone materials. The evolution of stone water channels flowing around the cemetery creates a vital sign of meditation between various symbolic elements; for example, life and death, this combination of materials revives numerous important symbolical associations.11 Water is a symbol of the unconscious and the unknown; it represents both death and life. In the philosophical views of Gaston Bachelard water is a form of a momentary element that connects every aspect of our world. 12 Water is an element that can be found everywhere in the world and in many conditions, it plays a significant role in our life, dreams and poetry, it helps our imagination to de-objectify solid forms and see them in different perspectives, enabling us to ‘dream’ and imagine the objects in different perception.13 In the Brion cemetery, the unconscious water accompanies architectural mass. It is usually positioned against architectural structures, creating a poetic relationship with one another. [Fig 4, 5] Water creates a magical reflection of everything that is around it. Building facades, landscape and bodies are reflected in the endless depth of water, creating a distorted image, an image of perfection, a true image of the Brion complex. The reflection in water changes the meaning of the cemetery, it makes the visitor contemplate and interpret the image in his own way, and therefore the reflected image becomes a canvas for our own imagination. In water, the cemetery becomes a threshold of our dreams and spirit.
Toshio, Nakamura, Carlo Scarpa 1985 October Extra Edition of Architecture & Urbanism (Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co Ltd, 1985) p.33. 9 Nakamura, p.33. 10 Nakamura, p.35. 11 Annie, J Kemp, Brion Vega Cemetery Experience Thesis <http://kairosretreat.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/brionvega-cemetery-experience.html > [accessed 12/04/2013] 12Gaston, Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter, (Texas, Dallas Inst Humanities & Culture, 1999) p.12. 13 Bachelard, p.12. 8
Symbolic Significance of Water
Figure 4. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Entrance building and its
cles reflected in the water.
architecture becomes distorted a
The image overlooks towards
Tomb and its garden.
Figure 5. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Burial
Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) The
qualities of the burial chapel are reflected in water, creating a natural
reflection. This reflection creates an effect of ‘never ending’ architecture.
According to Bachelards philosophy, water is not only a group of images exposed in dreams, it’s a mainstay that quickly becomes a founding provider of images.14 “Water is an element of materializing imagination.”15 It is an element that helps our imagination to de-objectify and integrate images with substances, objects and form. Images that in our imagination, without water would fail to de-form. Therefore, one can say that Brion would fail as a place of spiritual significance without the presence of water. Water helps the cemetery and its mass to become fluid, to become ephemeral and alive by forcing the reflected object to become unrestricted and free in its reverie. The presence of water turns a place of dead into a living place for death to pass. This description of water being a birth giving element is studied in the philosophy of Mircea Eliade. His philosophy talks about the beginning of everything, where at the beginning there was only the primordial water, plunged in cosmic darkness. Then the supreme god emerged from the darkness to separate the waters and form heavens, from which the world came to existence.16 In this philosophical perspective, one could imagine the waters of Brion bringing life to the architectural elements created by Carlo Scarpa. Therefore, water would be the element that helped to create the architectural beauty of the Brion Cemetery. In Brion Cemetery, water is directed from the chapel or its source where it gains its life. [Fig 6] The water then moves away from its ‘source’ towards the channels and finally the meditation pavilion. [Fig 7] According to Bachelard water becomes superficial once it is away from its source. This philosophy of superficial waters is described to have different qualities from the elements found in earth. Gaston Bachelard criticises the water by characterising it as a disturbing element that can easily fool and confuse. There is an open suggestion that water also has empowering symbolism and in its natural environment has a ‘vigorous life of fire’. In response to this, water helps our imagination to grow, our soul becomes in tune with the water, and then the poetic reflections will suddenly appear. 17 Bachelards’ study talks about the ‘Narcissus’ and how it grows in the reflection of pure and clear waters. Narcissus – the man in love with his own reflected image in still water. This philosophical study is an example of how water serves us as a mirror that reflects the image in its natural way, torn of any imperfections, with a little of innocence and naturalness. Still water creates an endless reflection that has no boundaries that would stop the image from continuing. It creates a second world that escapes in the depth of its own reflection, where the ‘Narcissus’ is able to see himself without being able to touch himself, which separates himself with an image by a false distance that cannot be reached. 18 Bachelards Narcissus is represented in the cemetery’s pavilion of meditation. It sits in the middle of a pond that reflects its image. The place of meditation becomes almost perfect in its reflection. The pavilion then becomes a sort of mediator between the plastic and strict reality and the poetic reverie. Therefore the reflected pavilion has no boundaries, no frame that would restrict it from being free and endless. With water the place of meditation becomes a private cloister that frees our
Bachelard, p.9. Bachelard, p.10. 16 Mircea, Eliade, The myth of the eternal return (New York, Bollingen, 1971) p.83. 17 Bachelard, p.13. 18 Bachelard, p.21. 15
Symbolic Significance of Water
Figure 6. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Back Entrance,
Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Back
chapel where the water is being pumped to
is the source from which the water gains its motion and travels across the cemetery, towards
basins and the pavilion of meditation.
Figure 7. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Water Channel, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Junction water main
and travels through the channel towards the pavilion of meditation. On its way to the pavilion, water reflects the architecture that grows beside it.
mind and takes it for a spiritual journey of the second world. This is yet again an interpretation of the Brion cemetery as a threshold between two universes. On the other hand, Bachelard describes the fountains as a closed mirror which suggests an ideal reflection for the ‘Narcissus’. He then feels like his beauty continues in the closed water of a fountain which has no end and no direction. 19Bachelard describes the fountain reflection as a glass mirror, plastic and dead form that will become natural and living again when compared with natural water. 20 The poetic experience cannot be created if one does not write about a mirror without relating it to fountains, and on the same point one cannot dream about the fountains without it being related to the nature and natural water.21 Therefore water is a medium that transfers the existing objects into a second world that creates a true connection between the object and substance. The object is being introduced to nature as a living motion of water. In this simple explanation, water transforms the solid characteristic of the Brion cemetery into a substance that escapes in the depth of water.[Fig 8] We can closely understand the characteristics of water as a medium by looking yet again at Narcissus ventures. In the presence of water Narcissus reveals his reality and identity. He feels naturally doubled.22 This is when Bachelards ideal reflection is born, where the idealizing Narcissus becomes delicate and fragile; that’s when water pushes narcissus out of present.23 Water is a mediator that reveals to us a second version of ourselves. According to Islam, when an object is reflected in water, it is inverted; it becomes an image of an image of the real object in heaven.24Therefore only when we look on a reflection of water we see the real, true world, the cosmos. Water has the ability to reflect back to our true nature and soul.25 In Edgar Allan Poe’s work, the water by its means of reflection doubles the world giving it a new stainless and clean image.26 “It is water itself, in its mass, no longer its surface, which sends us the insistent message of its reflection”.27 The deep and lifeless water can be seen in its own endless reflection that continues in its depth. This water reflects a deep perspective of our cosmos and everything that it surrounds; allowing to choose what Is being seen, to imagine and to dream.28 According to the Superstring Theory water is a subject of the universe, the universe that vibrates as well as everything within it. Water being sensitive to frequencies, devotedly mirrors all the vibrations created in the surrounding universe, water than becomes an eye which reflects the whole universe within itself. 29 We can reflect that back to the impression of water as mediator which opens to us a second world, the perfect and true world seen deep in the depth of water. Therefore in the water of Brion one can find himself contemplating not only on the image of the Brion, but on the image of his own. In water, imagination has no boundaries and one can find himself discovering a private and personal meaning of the Brion garden. If one looks deeper into the thought of Brion being not only a body in architecture, but a spirit reflected in water, one can understand that the cemetery is not a 19
Bachelard, p.22. Bachelard, p.22. 21 Bachelard, p.22. 22 Bachelard, p.21. 23 Bachelard, p.24. 24 Emma, Clark, The Art Of The Islamic Garden (Kent, Focus Publishing, 2010) p.91. 25 Kim, Huggens, From A Drop Of Water (London, Avalonia, 2009) p.31. 26 Bachelard, p.48. 27 Bachelard, p.50. 28 Bachelard, p.50. 29 Huggens, p.32. 20
Figure 8. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Entrance Corridor, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Entrance building of the cemetery and its overlapping
are reflected in the water. The architectural mass is reflected, making it double in
that seems to have no
the depth of water.
short-stop for the spirit, but it is a beginning of a new world that fallows the spirit in its journey, a journey through water. If one applies the work of Gaston Bachelard in the design of the Brion cemetery, one can understand the complex of Brion, not as a cemetery, but as a cosmos where the dead lives in its reflection in water. “Trials of life like life itself are as fleeting as a reflection in water”.30 Poe explains that deep water provides a particular motion which indicates the slow, gentle and silent as oil characteristics.31 He describes life through death as the fresh clear water that at one point has turned into the clouded and black water, the dead water. All running water that is born in its clean and pure state flows down to become heavy and deep. The water starts in its transparent and reflective state, full of life and power then ends in deep, dark depth where it finds its death.32 Rivers represent the journey of life, with the birth at the spring in the mountains, and death in the great sea of mind.33 The water’s life journey is similar to human life. This use of a personification may be seen as an underlying theme for the design of Brion Cemetery where the garden is decorated with ponds and channelled waters. These waters began in springs, powerful and lively before being channelled through to the garden, marking the start of their life journey. They reflect the souls of those laid to rest, which may be argued that these lost souls were once merged with the waters - referring back to Gaston Bachelard’s philosophy. Their imaginations flowed together through the journey of life, until both became dark water, lifeless and soulless. The cemetery marks the end of their life journey and the resting place for both the soul and water. Although the design may have aesthetic qualities, it may be naïve to assume that the design of the garden does not take into consideration philosophies and the symbolisms of water, in reflecting life and death. The Brion Cemetery is a series of episodes, episodes that in one way or another describe the journey of life up to the moment of death. Water in the design is indeed the element that highly describes the directions of our beginning and end. In order to understand the associations of water with life and death we need to reach to its meaning in different religious and cultural references. In our simple understanding, water is life-giving and cleansing, as well as being spiritually rejuvenating and purifying. This definition is applied in almost every religion and culture. The Arabs considered water as sacred, long before the Quran was revealed.34 It is written in Quran, “The heavens and the earth were of one piece, then we parted, then and we made every living thing of water”35 In Islam, water fountains represent the garden of paradise, the source of ever flowing water of the spirit, filling and purifying the soul: just like spring water that purifies at its source in Bachelards philosophy.36 In Islam, the world is an illusion, a fleeting reflection of the eternal heavenly realm.37 These are all very important references that we need to take to count while understanding the Brion, most importantly because Carlo Scarpa took influence from Islamic architecture.
Clark, p.90. Bachelard, p.12. 32 Bachelard, p.46. 33 Huggens, p.41. 34 Clark, p.89. 35 Clark, p.89. 36 Clark, p.90. 37 Clark, p.91. 31
According to Genesis; nothing existed, not even light until the spirit of God moved upon the face of waters.38 Water is perceived as a gift and a blessing from God and is considered as his mercy. The sanctity of running water and the importance of the water channel might be perceived from when the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus; she was comforted in her distress by dates to eat from a palm tree and a voice saying, â€œThy Lord has set below thee a rivuletâ€? so that she could drink. 39In Christianity water is used not only to cleanse ourselves from physical dirt, but also to wash away our sins. Therefore, water is a symbol of purity, a symbol of soul.40 The purifying quality of water is a powerful symbol for Hindus. They believe that water of life flows in the river Ganges, being sourced from the Himalayas, the mountain of Gods.41 The goddess Ganga represents the feminine energy of the Universe that is connected both to life and death. According to Hindus, Ganges purifies everything it touches.42 St. Paul wrote that a spiritual person will always look beyond what is visible to the invisible because the things that are seen are temporal and the things that are unseen are eternal; these were also regarded by the Celtic people. 43 They believed that watery places are the entrance to the otherworld. It was the reflective quality of water that reflects the landscape and sky which look like a gateway to another world. 44 This is very similar to what we see in Bachelards Narcissus or the Superstring Theory. Water reflection is an opening to a new perception of the world. [Fig 9]
Clark, p.89. Clark, p.90. 40 Clark, p.90. 41 Clark, p.90. 42 Huggens, p.31. 43 Clark, p.91. 44 Huggens, p.35. 39
Figure 9. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Drawing of Reflected Water, Treviso, Personal Drawing by author (26 June 2013) Drawing frames the back
chapel where water frames
image of the architectural mass. The water opens a new perspective,
building and giving it a â€˜Narcissusâ€™ characteristic.
Water and Stone Chapter Two
Water and Stone
The Brion Cemetery is a series of episodes, episodes that in one way or another describe the journey of life up to the moment of death. When entering the Brion Cemetery, one can notice the intentions of the architect to influence the way people move around the complex of Brion. Carlo Scarpa wants to engage people with his personal desires for landscape and architecture. He wants to manipulate human behaviour and direct human body by the means of architecture in order to find the views constructed by an architect.45The Cemetery is an architectural production of scopic and somatic dimensions.46 Therefore, Scarpa creates a relationship between architecture and the human body, a poetic connection that influences the theme of the cemetery. Scarpa did not limit the design to an assemblage of architectural objects; he wanted to include the historic and spiritual dimensions that would affect us physically and mentally. The architect intends to create a design where the visitor’s body moves between the architectural landscape as a representation of it, and as an experience, he describes the architectural perspectives with the use of figures and atmospheres rather than lines and vanishing points. The architect focuses on the line in terms of its values of colour rather than it being a senseless object; concentrating on all its essential characteristics: dark and light, near and far.47 This interesting method and philosophy of Scarpa’s design can be traced back to his personal interest in nude and Venetian Renaissance paintings. The architect’s Venetian roots are reflected in almost every of his designs; water channels that resemble Venetian canals or mosaic tails that remind of Scarpas home town architecture. Not only paintings but also literature influenced Scarpa in his architectural journey. Authors like Francesco Colonna or Edomondo De Amici influenced the garden designs of Scarpa. A female body situated in the landscape or gardens appears in most of the literature that influenced the architect. This might help to explain why the design drawings for Brion, more than any of his other projects, reflect an image of nude females.48 These images may seem sort of “ghostlike”; they reflect the way Scarpa imagined the living body physically engaging the Brion, both directly with the architectural beauty of the cemetery and as a site from which we can view a distant, idealized landscape. When entering the Brion Cemetery through the east entrance where the town cemetery is located the visitor is forced to adjust his body to the design for the first time. The entrance to the cemetery resembles a mausoleum which leans against a wall.49 [Fig 10] Over the entrance a weeping willow 45
George Dodds, Body and Building: Essays on the Changing Relation of Body and Architecture: Essays on the Changing Relation Relation of Body and Architecture (London, MIT Press, 2005) p.256. 46 Dodds, p.239. 47 Dodds, p.247. 48 Dodds, p.247. 49 Nory Miller, George Ranalli, Ross Miller, His own monument. The Brion-Vega cemetery, San Vito di Altivole; Architect: Carlo Scarpa (Progressive Architecture, 1981) p.124.
Figure 10. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Entrance, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (26 June 2013) Entrance to the Brion Cemetery is covered with a weeping willow. The monumental ‘gateway’ to the cemetery view
overlapping circles or the ‘eyes’ of the cemetery.
that has to be brushed aside in order to enter the Brion, acting as a natural curtain and creating an effect of a grotto. Scarpa described that part of the design as “a kind of tent”.50The tree itself has a symbolical value that gives an additional distinction to the entrance, but we will discuss the symbolism of plants in the next chapter. Immediately, after removing the tree brunches out of the way we approach the so called by Scarpa “propylaeum” and the interlocking circles - “eyes” of the garden.51 [Fig 11] The architect described the propylaeum as the navel of the garden as a body. In the propylaeum one can find two sets of stairs that lead the path to the interlocking circles, the ‘mandorla’. Stairs on the left hand side are designed with a standard ratio of rise to tread, on the right hand side stairs seem to have a double ratio. Therefore, stairs on the left allow one to easily step up to the main corridor and the mandorla. This confident and a light journey up the stairs influences the traveller to go towards the left, towards the tomb. The right hand set of stairs forces the visitor to make a sort of bending movement while stepping up. That could resemble a bowing movement that describes respect or sorrow. [Fig 12] This set of stairs pushes the visitor to go to the right, towards the meditating pavilion. This is one of the methods in which Scarpa manipulates the human body and the way visitors make their decision. It is cleverly pointed out by Guido Pietropoli that two sets of stairs and their conventional location on the off-axis manner, forces the visitor to make a conscious decision between left and right.52Is it a decision between life and death? At the end of the stairs lies the mandorla, the interlocking circles which describe and indicate the visitor’s journey. The interlocking circles apply different meanings to the Brion design. The view that is constructed from the circles is a sign of the Virgin Mary, it is a doubly generated female, describing the garden as a mother and the Brion tomb is the womb.53 This explains the religious relationship between different aspects of the design, in this case the Virgin Mary as a representation of the circles and as mentioned in the previous chapter a symbol of channelled water. Guido Pietropoli described the interlocking circles as a doorway to the precinct.54 On the other hand, its size and raised position on the wall reminds of a window, it suggests that this is a threshold that’s not supposed to be passed. The strict prohibition against transgressing that the circles reflect is significant in both ancient and Christian cultures. In these cultures, the interlocking circles have many different significant backgrounds which include: female corporeality, sacrality, departure of the daily and ordinary world from the realm of the “other”.55 The visitor has to choose which path to take, left or right. In numerology the mandorla is related to the number eleven. Resulting from the intersection of two circles, one side represents spirituality which is assigned to number one, and the other side represents unity which is assigned to number ten.56Scarpa described the circles as female and male, this might be a representation of the Brion couple and their relationship. The journey continues with a decision of going left or right. The left staircase leads the visitor towards the bodies of the Brion couple and the surrounding garden, a site of direct physical pleasure. The garden itself can be described as a place of happiness, despite the sad emotions associated with the Brions tomb and the death.
Dodds, p.248. Dodds, p.248. 52 Dodds, p.249. 53 Dodds, p.249. 54 Dodds, p.249. 55 Dodds, p.250. 56 Dodds, p.250. 51
Figure 11. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) The interlocking circles frame view towards
Figure 12. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Study of Stair Ratio, Treviso,
drawing by author (25 June 2013) Drawing study of the stairs describing how the
differ from the ones with double ratio.
The surrounding garden brings joy and pleasure to the visitor. Scarpa explained the garden: “I read that the women of Constantinople gladly take walks in the cemeteries there – sometimes to picnic.”57 That statement could describe Scarpas idea of designing a cemetery not only as a place for dead, but very much a place for living. The right hand side stairs take one on a completely different journey, physically and conceptually. The visitor is directed through a narrow path that leads him to a free standing structure that seems to be hovering over the surrounding pool of water. This journey is described as a journey of the spirit to the island designated to private meditation.58 Here the visitor can experience the garden from a far, contemplating on rationalized architecture. The pavilion is a sort of a centre place of the design, a place where one can inhale the spirit of the cemetery. The meditation pavilion is the only structure in the design that encourages human occupation. It is a place to stay and meditate. [Fig 13] Scarpa explained: “this is the only private place in the garden all of the rest is for public, for the playing children… The pavilion I made for myself... I go there frequently and meditate…It is the only one of my works that I gladly come back to see”59Referring back to the idea of the pavilion as a centre of the Brion cemetery, it is important to closely analyse the views that are framed from the pavilion itself. From the pavilion one can contemplate a long view through water lilies, a garden, to the Brion tomb and beyond the boundary wall, village roofs, and church and distant foothills.60 Figure 13. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) The pavilion of meditation,
pond creating a shelter for the visitors. It creates
space for meditation
Dodds, p.250. Dodds, p.251. 59 Dodds, p.251. 60 Peter, Buchanan, ‘Garden of death & dreams: Brion Cemetery, S Vito, Italy; Architect: Carlo Scarpa’, Architecture Review, 178 (1985) p. 54. 58
As mentioned before Scarpa frequently linked female bodies in his design, which also applies to his design drawings for Brion. In one of his elevation drawings for the meditating pavilion Scarpa has drawn a nude female that consists of two superimposed bodies.61 [Fig 14] Recognising that the body was drawn with two sets of everything particularly on the elevation of the pavilion might suggest that the body might represent matter and spirit. Another interesting fact is that the female is standing right behind the viewfinder which directs view towards the tomb of the Brion couple. There might be many interpretations of this drawing; the one that first comes in mind is the reflection of the Brion couple as two bodies or spirits for that matter. The other interpretation might be an image of a body and spirit. The image can be described as a meditating body that releases its spirit or a body that draws from a spirit. The drawing represents the female body in a bending notion, which might describe a sign of respect. This notion is prompted in all critical thresholds of the Brion62. When a visitor positions himself on the pavilion, one has to bend in order to look through the viewfinder that overlooks the garden of the Brion. [Fig 15] Similar motion applies whilst entering the pavilion. It is only when in a bending notion that one can see what is beyond the pavilion. Scarpa is directing potential vistas from the island indicate the importance of view and the manner in which they were supposed to be caught.63 In various elements of the design, Scarpa prompts the viewer to look beyond the immediate garden. Various elements of facades or boundary walls are designed in a way to force the visitor to look at a specific point in the landscape.64 It seems like Scarpa wanted to particularly inhabit those points of view found far in the landscape in the design, creating a connection between foreground and background, culture and history. “The visitor’s apprehension of the Brion includes both the construction of specific views and the absence of others; it engages both the conceptual and physical body of the visitor.”65 This refers back to the way Scarpa uses his architectural skills to affect the visitor’s body physically and mentally. Body and mind reacts differently in a different place of the cemetery. Scarpa wants to control the human behaviour and direct human body by means of architecture in order to find the views constructed by an architect.
Dodds, p.251. Dodds, p.256. 63 Dodds, p.252. 64 Dodds, p.253. 65 Dodds, p.255. 62
Figure 14. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Centro Carlo Scarpa, < http://www.carloscarpa.it/> [accessed: 24/12/2013] Oryginal drawing of Carlo Scarpa provided by Museum of Carlo Scarpa in Treviso, Italy. The drawing represents a nude female figures in relation to the scale of the pavilion.
Figure 15. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) View
the the pavil-
iton. The viewfinder frames the view of Brion Tomb and its surrounding
as well as the water channel and the landscape beyond the cemetery.
From the meditation pavilion and its surrounding water pool one can perceive a water channel that spreads all the way to the Brion tomb. By carefully studying the channel one realises that it is by the tomb that water has its spring. [Fig 16] The water channel born at three round basins, one full, one half empty and one dry. This transition can be understood as a journey of life, from matter to spirit. We remember from the previous chapter that water is a mediator for the spirit. It might describe the journey of the Brion couple, their bodies turning into a spirit that travels through the water to the pavilion of meditation where their journey ends peacefully. On the other hand, it might have a completely opposite meaning, seeing the water as a spring we can associate that with a symbol of resurrection or yin yang. Water is a powerful tool that is used to enhance the cemeteries’ architecture physically and conceptually. It is the strongest mediator that emphasizes and describes the theme of life and death all along the cemetery. In the other water pool one can discover the funerary chapel. [Fig 17] The chapel has its own entrance from the street to indicate a different meaning and use from the main entrance. The entrance brings the visitor past the chapel to enter from the garden side via a porch and an entrance like a Chinese moon gate closed by a metal shoji screen.66 [Fig 18] The chapel appear to be floating on the water which indicates a place of worship and the high spirit. From the chapel stepping stones floating on the water lead one to the burial for priests; there is a series of cypresses’ which is a symbol of resurrection and after life.67 Around the chapel in its spiritual pool one can find facetted forms below the surface.68These forms could resemble stairs that lead the spirit down to the water which takes it to the end of its journey or perhaps its start. These stepped concrete facets are the hallmarks of Scarpas work and can be found all around the Brion complex.69 [Fig 19] “The Brion sanctuary is not about the body as object or body as other it is about how our bodies, not simply as sensing organs viewing devices, but as sential being fully engage in culturally specific constructs, vegan and mineral, landscape and building.”70 Figure 16. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Treviso, Water Diagram, Drawing
(12 September 2013) Diagram
ing location of water ponds and water channel. It is a study
1. Burial chapel pond, the source of water 2. Water is pumped across to the basins 3.Two water basins, water is pumped up the channel 4. Pavilion of meditation pond 5. Water runs underneath the entrance corridor
of how the water runs around the cemetery.
Buchanan, p.54. Buchanan, p58. 68 Buchanan, p.58. 69 Buchanan, p.59. 70 Dodds, p.256. 67
Figure 17. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Priest Entrance of The Chapel, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) The burial chapel is surrounded by a pool of water that reflects its a
Figure 18. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Burial
Treviso, Personal photograph by author (27 June 2013) Interior of the burial chapel, wards
mood gate and metal shoji screen.
Figure 19. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Concrete Facets, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (27 June 2013) Stepped
facets seen on the faรงade of the burial church
on the architectural forms as well as an element seen in the depth of water.
Death and Living Chapter Three
Death and Living
“To live is to die a little. To die is to truly leave, and no one leaves well, courageously, cleanly, expect by following the current, the flow of wide river.”71 The design of the Brion cemetery is in Scarpa views not only a pragmatic place of dead, but also a poetic place for the living. It is not a simple task to understand exactly what Scarpa is saying through his design, but one can make assumptions that closely describe the cemetery and its death and living qualities. The design cannot be completely understood in hard architectural forms, it has to be associated with the surrounding landscape and water. The cemetery is a series of episodes. Let us rise up and start by looking at the Brion from a broader perspective, concentrating on its landscape, its mother that gives life to everything that’s living around the Brion. Plants have strong symbolic associations, elements of the cemetery and their meanings are expressed through plants. 72 Plants seem to be randomly placed around the cemetery with no particular symbolical association with the location that they are positioned. One would expect them to follow the ‘journey of spirit’ from life of the body at the chapel, through death inside the tomb up to life of the spirit in the meditation pavilion. Therefore we will just concentrate on the specimen and what they could symbolise. The cemetery consists of trees that have funeral associations. Cypress and the yew are both traditional, but somehow related to female, male and yang-yin symbols. The cypress was a symbol of mourning and it still remains a cemetery tree in both the Muslim and Christian world.73The yew can be used to assist Otherworld voyages and to improve communication with otherworld.74 Both trees gained life to give life, but symbolise death. On the other hand; water is a symbol of new spirit and new wish. Such flowers gain life in the dead deep water of the meditating pavilion, water that gives life to plants and fishes. It is a paradox of life giving death. Plants in the Brion cemetery are chosen to dramatize changes.75 The garden of the Brion cemetery consists of evergreen and many deciduous plants that colour brilliantly in the autumn, emphasising the change of season.76 The change of seasons is a strong and unconscious element of the architectural composition. They emphasize the transitions between life and death. Spring is the season of life where everything is born again. Many plants start to bear fruits, a food supply for birds in the autumn and winter.77 This is another symbol of life that gives life. Winter is the season of death which freezes everything that it touches. It is a life stopping element that slows the motion of the universe, stops the water from flowing; it stops the spiritual journey of life.
Bachelard, p.74. George, Seddon, ‘The Brion cemetery, S Bito, Italy 1970-72; Architects: Carlo Scarp’, Landscape Australia, 13 (1991) p.147. 73 Seddon, p.147. 74 Seddon. p.147. 75 Seddon, p.150. 76 Seddon, p.150. 77 Seddon, p.150. 27 72
There is no life if there is no water, therefore plants would not paint the landscape of the Brion. Water is a strong mediator that brings life to everything it touches, at the same time its deadly powers can destroy every life that lays on its way. According to Bachelard, water is the substance of life, but it’s also the substance of death for ambivalent reverie.78 Therefore it is up to an individual to understand the symbolism according to their own believes. If one looks deep in depth, beyond what’s on the surface of water that has its place around the meditation pavilion, one will see nothing but death. On the other hand, if the eye moves back to see what is on the surface, it would see matter that earns its life from water. Water is a mediator that reflects the journey of life and death. “Death is a journey, a journey is death.”79 The funerary chapel is the first step of the journey of the spirit, where the spirit is still trapped in the dead body, a body that is carried to its final destination; the tomb. Thus the journey of the body is a complete representation of death, up to the moment where the body rests in the tomb. That is where the water channel has its spring; it’s where the water brings the spiritual life back to our world. By the tomb, three basins: one dry, one half empty, and one full of water. This could be understood as the motion that our body goes through, it’s the moment when the spirit leaves our body to starts its journey towards the other world. It’s a transition between life, death and the afterlife. Every hour the water in the third basins starts to go into a sort of boiling motion, the water begins to gain drive that pushes it towards the pavilion of meditation. [Fig 20] This is when the spirit starts its journey towards the pavilion, where it finds its peace and destination. That is when the spirit leaves the cemetery. Water is needed for death to keep its meaning of a journey.80 That explains the necessity of water as an element that helps the dead body to continue its journey of life in a form of spirit. It is important to take note that Scarpa considered water features only by the architectural elements designed for the Brion family. [Fig 21] Therefore we can comprehend that Scarpa designed these monuments to praise the Brion family in their afterlife and to help them leave our world in the most eminent way possible. Scarpas grave lies in the corner of the cemetery, far away from water. As if the architect wanted to stay in the cemetery and contemplate in his architectural brilliance. The cemetery is not completely about the journey of life and death, it is the true narrative of an architect that lived for architecture and died with architecture. [Fig 22]
Bachelard, p.73. Bachelard, p.73. 80 Bachelard, p.76. 79
Figure 20. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Water
Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Water basins of the Brion
basin on the left stays half empty; the one on right hand side gains a â€˜boilingâ€™ motion every hour. The pumped water is creates a current that runs towards the pavilion of meditation.
Figure 21. Carlo Scarpa, Brion
Tomb Brion, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) The Brion Tomb is one of the most important architectural
ments of the garden, designed
by the Brion couple. Laying in the centre of the garden it creates a focal point of the composition.
by the tomb water has its spring which carries their spirit towards the pavilion of meditation
Figure 22. Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Carlo Scarpa Grave, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (26 June 2013) The grave of Carlo Scarpa,
the beautiful, poetic place for death and living lies in the dark corner of the cemetery, far from water.
The Journey of Spirit, Scarpas Legacy Conclusion
The Journey of Spirit, Scarpas Legacy This dissertation is a personal trial to understanding the architectural intelligence of Carlo Scarpa. The text sets an argument on the importance of water in the cemeteries’ design, strictly concentrating on the philosophical meaning of the design and the symbolical meanings of water. It argues that water is a poetic mediator that makes up the design of Brion, setting up a beautiful relationship between the element and architecture. The essay strongly concentrates on the transition between life, death and rebirth. As previously mentioned in the text, water is a mediator that connects the two different realities of our world, in this case the realities of death and life. It is an element that ‘creates’ the cemetery and reflects its image to create the philosophical relation between what exists and what doesn’t, relation between life and death. It is hard to understand if water was the key element that motivated Carlo Scarpa in his architecture, nonetheless the study aims to focus on the importance of water in the design. The symbolical meanings and uses of water in the design prove to have a strong connection between the landscape and architecture. Therefore water is consciously used by the architect to emphasize on the poetic relation between the element itself and the architectural form of the design. The relationship between water and the theme of life and death seem to be very philosophical and abstract, but when compared with the layout of Brion Cemetery and the use of water, the relationship between the element and the ‘journey of spirit’ becomes more understandable. It is important to understand that Carlo Scarpa designed not only a pragmatic place of dead, but also a poetic place for the living. It is with water that the cemetery gains its poetic qualities which make up the architectural beauty. In conclusion, it is worth repeating that the philosophical study of water and its qualities, highly contribute to the design of the Brion Cemetery. It is not proven in the study that Scarpa was personally influence by religious and philosophical definitions of water, nevertheless these definitions strongly associate with the execution of the design. Water is indeed an element that drives the architectural qualities of the cemetery. This spiritual element emphasizes the burial ceremony and the motion between life and death, a motion that is strongly seen in the layout of the Brion Cemetery. The philosophical study of water and the cemetery explains how they are wellsuited to giving evidence to the result or product of the design of Brion Cemetery. Perhaps water is indeed an element that describes the brilliance of Carlo Scarpa, an element that in connection with his architectural skills gives birth to an architecture that is beautiful and poetic.
Bachelard, Gaston, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter (Texas, Dallas Inst Humanities & Culture, 1999) Beltramini, Guido & Zannier Italo. Carlo Scarpa: Architecture and Design (New York, Rizzoli, 2007) Clark, Emma, The Art Of The Islamic Garden (Marlborough, The Crowood Press, 2010) Cook, J Linda, ‘Cemeteries’, Landscape Architecture, 81 (1991), 66-75 Dal Co, Giuseppe Mazzariol Francesco, Carlo Scarpa: The complete works (Electa/The Architectural Press, 1986) Dodds, George, Body and Building: Essays on the Changing Relation of Body and Architecture: Essays on the Changing Relation Relation of Body and Architecture (London, MIT Press, 2005) Eliade, Mircea, The myth of the eternal return (New York, Bollingen, 1971) Huggens, Kim, From a Drop of Water (London, BM Avalonia, 2009) Kemp, J Annie, ‘Brion-Vega Cemetery Experience Thesis,<http://kairosretreat.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/brionvega-cemetery-experience.htm > [accessed 12/04/2013] Los, Sergio, Carlo Scarpa: An Architectural Guide (Verona, Arsenale Editrice, 2007) Miller, Nory, Ranalli, George, Miller, Ross, ‘His own monument. The Brion-Vega cemetery, San Vito di Altivole; Architect: Carlo Scarpa’, Progressive Architecture, 62 (1981):124-131 Naydler, Jeremy, Gardening as a Sacred Art (Edinburgh, Floris Books, 2011) Nover, Peter. 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) Peter, Buchanan, ‘Garden of death & dreams: Brion Cemetery, S Vito, Italy; Architects: Carlo Scarpa’, Architecture Review, 178 (1985):54-59 Seddon, George, ‘The Brion cemetery, S Vito, Italy 1970-72; Architects: Carlo Scarpa’, Landscape Australia, 13(1991): 146-153
Illustration IllustrationCredits Credits
Figure 1: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Water Channel Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 2: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Treviso, Axonometric Drawing by author (25 June 2013) Figure 3: Brion Cemetery, Site plan, Drawing by author (10 August 2013) Figure 4: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Overlapping Circles, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 5: Carlo Scarpa,Brion Cemetery, Burial Chapel, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 6: Carlo Scarpa,Brion Cemetery, Back Entrance, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 7: Carlo Scarpa,Brion Cemetery, Water Channel, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 8: Carlo Scarpa,Brion Cemetery, Entrance Corridor, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 9: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Drawing of Reflected Water, Treviso, Personal Drawing by author (26 June 2013) Figure 10: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Entrance, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (26 June 2013) Figure 11: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Overlapping Circles, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 12: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Study of Stair Ratio, Treviso, Personal drawing by author (25 June 2013) Figure 13: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Meditation Pavilion, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 14: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Original Drawing, Centro Carlo Scarpa, < http://www.carloscarpa.it/> [accessed: 24/12/2013] Figure 15: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Viewfinder, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 16: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Treviso, Water Diagram, Drawing by author (12 September 2013) Figure 17: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Priest Entrance of The Chapel, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 18: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Burial Chapel Interior, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (27 June 2013) Figure 19: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Concrete Facets, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (27 June 2013) Figure 20: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Water Basins, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 21: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Tomb Brion, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (25 June 2013) Figure 22: Carlo Scarpa, Brion Cemetery, Carlo Scarpa Grave, Treviso, Personal photograph by author (26 June 2013)
Published on May 24, 2014
The design of the Brion Cemetery is a representation of a monument that testifies to the independence of architecture in the face of any phi...