Nick Criscione

Nick Criscione

Brooklyn, NY, US


Brion Family Tomb Study - Senior Capstone Project

My Senior Capstone Project as a study of Carlo Scarpa's Brion Family Tomb in Treviso, Italy. The project was a 3-month study of Scapa and his work, in the end developing a set of drawings for the work.

The following is my unedited Senior Capstone Essay from 2007:


Carlo Scarpa’s work The Brion Family Cemetery is intended to be a place, in Scarpa’s own words, that could “.... show some ways in which you could approach death in a social and civic way; and further what meaning there is in death.” Scarpa’s design intention was to create a space to celebrate the lives that Guiseppe and Ororina Brion lived and shared together. This is in contrast to a traditional cemetery where there is an emphasis mourning the loss of life, rather than a celebration of the lives lived. Scarpa uses both a balance of elements representing life and death as well as elements representing both time and timelessness.
Scarpa uses several elements to represent life and death but the most overwhelming is Scarpa’s use of water throughout the project. As one walks through the entire complex from meditation area to chapel, it is intended to be reminiscent of one’s entire life. The idea of the composition symbolizing a life lived is strengthened by Scarpa’s use of water. In the meditation area, an area intended for family only, there is a small pad on the water where one is isolated and left to reflect, surrounded by water. The water is in this area is symbolic of the womb and pre-life. One is removed from the whole and isolated on/in water, similar to the time prior to birth when one is alone and submerged in water. From the meditation area the water thins out and moves in a linear path direct towards the tombs of Mr. and Mrs. Brion. Here the water symbolizes the path of life. One’s life may seem to be scattered and seemingly unorganized, but here Scarpa shows the linear path of everyone’s life. There is always a fluidity throughout life, although it is not always recognized. This path continues and thins out yet again and ends in a vessel holding the water directly in front of the tombs of the Brions. Here Scarpa represents the end of ones life. The water stops and is collected, symbolizing the end of life, and Scarpa allows one to mourn the loss of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Brion. From the tomb, one travels next to the chapel, which is surrounded by water. Scarpa makes a profound statement with the water surrounding the chapel symbolizing the perseverance of life and the strength of memory. Although the person is no longer living on the earth, the memory of the person will forever be remembered and cherished.
Scarpa does not only use the element of water to symbolize the path of life and the perseverance of life, he also includes an element of time in that same water. In both the larger areas of water near the meditation area and the water surrounding the chapel, there are sunken elements. These elements vary from sunken vessels to continuations of the steps with articulated detail. These elements evoke thoughts of an ancient civilization and make the cemetery seemingly timeless. The areas also feature an abundant amount of plant life and are left uncleaned after years and years. The effect of this, is that the cemetery itself actually ages and shows it age, just as a person would. Scarpa embraces aging, both of the cemetery itself and of the individual, and does not resist it, as many would and continue to do.
Scarpa uses the element water to symbolize life and the motion of ones life. There is constant motion in water and is always changing, but it moves in a linear manner. Just as a person’s life is always changing and full of motion, but there is always a new day. Although the cememtery is intended to be a place of the celebration of life as opposed to mourning the loss of life, Scarpa allows for time to reflect on life, celebrate life and mourn the loss of life. There is no place where there is a fully gleeful moment, just as there is never a moment void of life. Even when Scarpa uses the element of Yew Trees, which are historically symbolic of death, the trees themselves bring life to the area through the red berries they yield to the birds. Carlo Scarpa’s composition of the Brion Family Tomb is a place of balance. One cannot celebrate life without revering death. In his project, Scarpa makes death a beautiful thing, because there is the realization that death brings the end of a life, but at the same time one can celebrate this realization, because death affirms life.

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Status: School Project
Location: Treviso, Italy