Plants, Stone, California Landscapes



On my Italy trip I went to Brion Cemetery, the chapel and memorial garden Carlo Scarpa designed for the Brion family on a parcel of land adjoining a smalltown cemetery. It’s a family memorial, but it’s also a de facto Carlo Scarpa memorial, a destination for the legions of Scarpa fans, which now absolutely includes me. I knew of Brion, but didn’t know where it was, just that it was in an obscure town in the Venezia, and it didn’t seem like somewhere I could easily visit on the bicycle. But then as I was riding along, I randomly saw a sign for it and immediately detoured. Pure happenstance.

It’s hard to overstate how glad I am. I’d seen photos, but it’s fantastic in person, a tour de force of concrete detailing. There’s symbolism and a narrative to the garden, but what fascinates me is Scarpa’s ability to execute variations on a theme and to incorporate eccentric design moves into a cohesive design. It’s all very quirky, but it all works.

It also struck me that the concrete feels like it is built out of discrete units, there’s a respect for each element of concrete and the joints that bring everything together. You get a sense of the construction of the place and the hand of the designer and workers that created it; it’s as if the wood used to form all of the board-formed concrete still has a presence in the garden. I studied the joints to try and figure out the process, and I’ve seen some of the construction drawings, but I would love to have seen the forms. ‘Damn, he had a good concrete person,’ was one of the first things I said as I walked around.

Brion has been photographed a great deal, but never by me, so I’m indulging myself. An excess of photos are below.

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