Following an international competition, this proposal for the redesign of Venice's principal cemetery was selected to develop and extend the island of San Michele. This historic site, located in the Venetian lagoon and enclosing a 15th-century church and convent, has been in continuous development for over four hundred years but has recently evolved to a point where the romantic image of its outer face is in stark contrast to the somewhat municipal character of its interior. Looking to address this apparent imbalance, the proposal sought to redefine some of the cemetery's former physical qualities.
The project itself comprises two phases: in the first, the burial grounds of the current cemetery are complemented through the construction of a series of new courtyards, a crematorium, and a chapel. In contrast to the existing rows of tombs, the proposed scheme offers a new arrangement of buildings, walls, tombs, and landscape. Rather than distributing the new elements in a linear manner (which through their regularity creates something of a rigid, repeating pattern of walls and tombs) an organisational structure has been developed which groups the volumes together to form a greater sense of settlement and enclosure. Informed by the principles of scorci (views), campo and corti (courtyards), calle (lanes) and giardini (gardens) this spatial organisation hopes to create a more varying and yet clearly defined San Michele landscape.
The second phase of the project involves the construction of a new island, running parallel to the existing cemetery but separated by a 15m-wide channel. This new island will feature four tomb buildings - designed as simple, sculpted blocks - together with a series of gardens at water level. Unlike the remainder of San Michele, built higher above the water line and with its perimeter wall, this new island looks to create a more open, accessible monument so as to provide a greater sense of place not only for the cemetery but for the lagoon and Venice as a whole.
Gross Floor Area: Stage One: 16,000 m2
Stage Two: 500,000 m2
Competition Date: 1998
Completion Date: Stage One: 2006
Stage Two: 2013
Production Director: Franco Gazzarri
Section of the courtyard no.4
Services Engineer: Ove Arup & Partners
Quantity Surveyor: Tim Gatehouse Associates
Geologist: Cesare Rizzetto
Geotechnical Consultant: Studio Geotechnic Italiano