I have seen the table signs for the visit to Tomba Brion for years, during my bike rides and while driving my car. “I’ll go”, I promised myself several times, perhaps with a guided tour. During this summer break I finally managed to flag Tomba Brion from my to do list.
The monumental complex is located at the cemetery of San Vito di Altivole, Treviso. The project is by Professor Carlo Scarpa who built the monument between 1970 and 1978. Tomba Brion was commissioned by the wife of the deceased Giuseppe Brion. Mr Brion lived in Milan where he founded and managed the Brionvega company, of which Radio Cubo was a bestseller (go and look for it on the internet, for sure you know it). Brion asked to be buried in his native town Altivole. His wife Onorina bought about 2400sqm of land along the north and east side of the small nineteenth-century cemetery of San Vito, where Carlo Scarpa created a monumental complex that contains 5 different buildings, 2 basins with water lilies and carp and an obsessive attention to detail.
Our great guide Monica guided us in the visit of Tomba Brion in a brilliant way, mixing stories of men and stories of the arts. I leave you three “images” remained after days.
Carlo Scarpa chosed to build Tomba Brion using reinforced concrete and covers it with white smooth lime only in some places, to create areas with greater brightness. Concrete is used for aesthetic purposes as Scarpa asks the workers to make the formwork (the wooden frame into which the concrete is poured) with saw-cut wooden planks and to use it very few times. Once the concrete is freed, it shows the grain of the wood. Scarpa combines the reinforced concrete with precious materials such as Murano glass, alabaster, gold, a very smooth Carrara marble and flame-cut granite.
Carlo Scarpa went to Japan for the first time in 1969, the year in which he received the commission for the monumental complex from Onorina Brion, wife of Giuseppe. There are many references to Japan inside the tomb, the creation of pools with water lilies and carp is the most immediate. From Japan, Scarpa brings sound architecture to Altivole: along the corridor of the Propylaea (the entrance area to the complex) he lays slightly oblique stone slabs, so that each step creates a different sound. Another example of sound architecture are the steps that lead to the Chapel from the Arcosolium, the environment under which the Brion couple’s tombs are placed. Try walking the steps in silence or “playing” them like drums with your hands.
Scarpa worked maniacally on this work, even studying the size of the drops that had to fall from the roof from the family’s Aedicule. Scarpa will visit the construction site many times, even at night to check the shadow that the cypresses cast on the chapel with a full moon. About Tomba Scarpa says
It is the work I visit most willingly because in my others I see only errors and defects
Scarpa died in 1978 in Sendai, Japan, and the Tomba Brion remains unfinished despite the Professor’s 3000 preparatory drawings.
And it is here that Scarpa chooses to be buried anonymously in the public area of the complex. The carpenter Zanon, who worked with Scarpa at Brion and on other works, placed a metal element in correspondence with his remains “so that it is possible to recognize where the Professor has been deposited”.
Scarpa will always be called Professor and not Architect. As Monica tells us, Carlo Scarpa was a professor in architectural design and never an architect. In fact, the Professor has his students sign the projects in order to avoid lawsuits for abusive exercise of the profession.
– I strongly advise you to be accompanied by the talented Monica in the visit of Tomba Brion, here you will find the next appointments.
– Scarpa is linked to the great Adriano Olivetti: we take you to visit the Olivetti Complex in Ivrea.