Concrete architecture: the monumental Brion Tomb

What material would you choose to create a monumental tomb? The Etruscan and many other ancient peoples chose stone, but with the arrival of modernity and concrete it was the latter that allowed the faster and more efficient construction of the places of eternal rest.

The monumental funeral complex ‘Brion’, in San Vito di Altivole, was commissioned to the architect-designer Carlo Scarpa by Onorina Brion Tomasin in memory of the beloved spouse Giuseppe Brion, who died prematurely. The industrialist was born in the small town of Treviso and is well known for the Brionvega brand, a beacon of Made in Italy design for the radio and television industry of the 60s and 70s.

1 Susana Landrove/Fundación DOCOMOMO Ibérico

The work of S. Vito constitutes the pinnacle of Scarpa’s activity, who being fully aware of this pour here all his vast architectural, artistic and literary culture, in addition to his profound craftsmanship. As regards the latter aspect, the historians Mazzariol and Barbieri write:

He speaks of Carlo’s entire activity, and of all its complex, a very rich relationship with the realities it has encountered, of contemporary architecture, there is Wright’s memory and there is Vienna in the enchanting white door of the church; and there are a hundred other citations, from the Lombard stones inserted in the walls, still of the church, to the oriental pagoda. But so, it is a desire to read only the stylistic elements which, in a certain sense, must have been there and not what, vice versa, exists: that is, Scarpa’s great style.

2 Susana Landrove/Fundación DOCOMOMO Ibérico

The material quality of the exposed concrete is one of the key aspects of this project: over time it has reacted with the environment and has been covered with lichen and moss, merging with the living elements that make up the garden. The surface texture differs depending on the position and the material’s exposure to inclement weather or erosion caused by contact with the garden’s ponds and small canals.

The Brion Tomb is accessed through the propylaea. Then, along the porch, you reach the meditation pavilion surrounded by water and water lilies. Continuing north we find the arcosolium that covers the arcs of the progenitors of the client family. Nearby there is the tent-cave, which houses the tombs of relatives, from which you reach the chapel, isolated in the water.

The concrete is also treated with an extraordinary subtlety, following a sculptural logic more than an architectural one: like jewellery, it is inlaid with metallic and ceramic elements, or it is contrasted with shiny and polished materials. In addition, various concrete elements are articulated with mechanisms that let them move, a truly unique treatment for a material that is almost always associated with a fixed position.

This building has been selected among the 100 most representative concrete buildings of the 20th century, visit the site 100fromthe20th to find out more.

3 Susana Landrove/Fundación DOCOMOMO Ibérico
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