The Intrigue of Indeterminate Systems (Part I):
Modena, Italy - October 25th
San Cataldo Cemetery, Aldo Rossi (1971) (1978- )
”(…) the term “fragments” seems to me to be adequate to depict the situation of the modern city, the architecture and the society. (…) In its physical meaning (broken things, mutilated elements) or in its general meaning (part of a complete drawing which went lost) it is beyond doubt that the fragments belong to architecture; and they belong to it almost as constructive elements, almost as theoretical elements. (…) This is perhaps the big dream of the great civil architecture; it is not the harmony in discord, but the beautiful and tidy city thanks to the wealth and variety of its places. It is because of this that I also believe in the future city as the one in which the fragments of something broken in its origin are rearranged (…). (Rossi, 1978:7-8, in Ferlenga, 1978: 7-8)”
Aldo Rossi on Fragments
Aldo Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery is the newest in a complex of cemeteries just outside Modena that were planned as ideal cities for the dead. The first of these was planned by the architect Cesare Costa and carried out from 1858 to 1876. It is a closed system, a walled city whose perimeter architecture blocks the outside world. Tombs and crypts are positioned on both a piano nobile and inside a plinth underneath it identifying the status of the individuals buried there. The Aldo Rossi addition to the cemetery was intended as a similar closed composition, but as executed, the project is only a segment of the proposal he submitted for the 1972 competition. Being a fragment itself, it seamlessly fits with Rossi’s ideas about how buildings in cities have roles and functions that take on lives of their own regardless of their intended symbolic meaning. A cemetery by its nature is an open ended architectural proposition as it must serve to function as architecture in an incomplete state while the process of occupying it is ongoing. The layers of Rossi’s cemetery are even more poignant given its relationship to the two existing cemeteries, which are both closed “cities” unto themselves. Left unfinished and open to the highway beyond it, the newest part of the cemetery unintentionally lays bare the messiness of the contemporary city.