Funerary architecture brings together numerous symbols of the most profound beliefs – both explicit and implicit – held by our society in a place for remembrance and continuing piety. Remodelling a historical family funerary chapel located in a cemetery is tantamount to making another statement of identity, in which the architecture acts as a key element in an expression of accumulated memory. Generally speaking, in addressing this set of values, concepts and beliefs, the design of funerary architecture will bring elements of the contemporary into places distinguished by an overlapping of different historical periods.
In the case of extensions to existing cemeteries or newly established facilities, the architecture itself creates a new world of signs and symbols. In the case of Raymond Guidacci’s design in San Giorgio Canavese (province of Turin), the chapel is located in a situation with contrasting and complementary elements – that is, alongside a number of old family chapels, which encircle the burial grounds. Remodelling a single element of this group of existing chapels means changing the appearance of the whole – creating new symbols in a place with an established historical presence and a delicate, if not precarious, balance. The project was, however, conducted in the knowledge that a new balance could be achieved by each choice being mediated by the desire to express the new design with full respect for the memories, symbols, and emotions evoked by the surrounding chapels.
The concept of a monument – a place of remembrance – is an underlying idea of the design: there is a rarefaction of the design language, a separateness from the surrounding buildings, and a highlighting of the purity of the materials used that helps the chapel blend in with the other chapels, with their rich architectural ornamentation applied over geometric lines. The remodelling of the chapel was intended to restore its linear geometry, which hinges on both its essentiality and, by contrast, its dialogue with history. Preserving the geometric profile of the existing chapel, which reflects many of the other chapels, became an expressive instrument. The design achieves balance, while eliminating decorative elements, through its combination of rigid geometric lines and materials.
The chapel, built to a square plan with its sides around ten feet in length, consists of a cube surmounted by a tympanum. Walls finished in large sheets of white gneiss stone surround the façade, with the entrance doors consisting of two towering sheets of glass. Visually the front of the chapel is marked by a stylized cross, created by two coupled stainless steel profiles. The angle profiles act as handles on the glass doors, while following the line of the entablature in the way they join vertically with the walls and gneiss roof. The interior space is based around principles of geometric abstraction and ways of focusing perceptions. The interior flooring and front walls are finished with gneiss slabs, while the other walls and ceiling are finished in black enamel paint. The trapdoor to the crypt is formed by two of the paving slabs. The arrangement of the lines in the interior focuses attention on a black granite slab, the central element of the chapel, which takes on a sculptural value, with nine red roses on a bed of red sand forming the centrepiece of, and homage to, remembrance.
Location: San Giorgio Canavese, Turin
Client: The L’Episcopo family
Gross Floor Area: 9 m2
Cost of Construction: 40.000 Euros
Architect: Raimondo Guidacci
Interior Decorations: Sikkens
Granite Vase: Catella Fratelli
Photo by: © Beppe Giardino
Raimondo Guidacci (Foggia 1968) graduated in architecture at the Venice IUAV (under Carlo Magnani). At the same time he passed out of the Benedetto Marcello Conservatoire of Music.
In 1996 he opened a professional practice at Orsara in Puglia and in 1998 at Turin. From 1995 to 2005 he teamed up with Emanuele Levi Montalcini at the Turin Polytechnic Architecture Faculty, Architectural Design Laboratories, where he was assistant to Guido Martinero from 1996 to 1999.
Some of his works have been featured in specialist journals and awarded prizes in architecture, including certain exhibitions and shows. Publications of note: the Casabella Almanacchi; the book edited by Marco Mulazzani Italian Architects, the new generation, published by Electa in 2006; as well as specialist reviews like The Plan, Abitare, Costruire, D’Architettura, C3.
His plan for two houses in Puglia was picked for the Cosenza Award 2004 and the Barbara Cappochin Award 2007 in the category of “best international works”; it won the INARCH/ANCE prize 2008 for the category “work by a young professional”; it was an architecture prize-winner at the Premio di architettura per la Capitanata 2010 awarded by the Roll of Architects for the Province of Foggia.
He alternates in his professional practice between his native Puglia and Piemonte where he now lives.
At present he is designing some single-family houses in Puglia and extending the cemetery at San Mauro Torinese.