San Cataldo Cemetery Facade by Aldo Rossi

© Andrea Pirisi

The San Cataldo Metropolitan Cemetery, designed by Aldo Rossi, integrates a design built by the architect Cesare Costa between 1858 and 1876 with a very modern building designed by the Italian architect in 1971. Rossi was a man appreciated internationally for his Architecture theories, and he made a building that reflected his social perspective and theories.

San Cataldo Cemetery Technical Information

What surprises me most in architecture, as in other techniques, is that a project has one life in its built state but another in its written or drawn state.

– Aldo Rossi

San Cataldo Cemetery Photographs

San Cataldo Cemetery Corner by Aldo Rossi

© Andrea Pirisi


San Cataldo Cemetery Facade Composition by Aldo Rossi

© Andrea Pirisi


San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi

© Andrea Pirisi


San Cataldo Cemetery Entrance by Aldo Rossi

© Andrea Pirisi


Courtyard of the San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi

© Andrea Pirisi


Aerial View of the Cemetery / Aldo Rossi

© Stefano Topuntoli


Bridge inside the San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi

© Nuno Cera


San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi

© Nuno Cera


San Cataldo Cemetery Interior / Aldo Rossi

© Nuno Cera

San Cataldo Cemetery: A Postmodern Icon

A masterful expression of Aldo Rossi’s poetics, the cemetery is an analogical route through the collective images of the “house of the dead” filtered through the architect’s memory. The cemetery remains a public building with the necessary clarity and rationality of the paths with the terrain’s right utilization.

Perhaps as a result of this incident, the project for the cemetery at Modena was born in the little hospital of Slawonski Brod, and simultaneously, my youth reached its end. […]

I lay in a small ground-floor room near a window through which I looked at the sky and a little garden. Lying nearly immobile, I thought of the past, but sometimes I did not think: I merely gazed at the trees and the sky.

– Aldo Rossi

It is enclosed by a windowed wall to provide the citizens and visitors with an image focalized on the idea of space. However, the melancholy of the theme of death does not detach it from the other public buildings. Its order and position also comprise the bureaucratic aspect of death. Today partially completed, the building is structured in such a way as to confine wide green spaces further marked by a criss-cross of pedestrian paths.

At the center of Rossi’s design is a cube-shaped ossuary for housing remains and a conical tower that marks a communal grave. Set within a courtyard on Modena’s outskirts, the ossuary is covered in a terracotta-colored render, while the perimeter buildings that enclose the courtyard feature steely blue roofs.

The various building complexes run parallel to each other towards the central “vertebral” axis, which objectively, almost “physically” links the orientational lines of this section of the project. These compositive lines volumetrically degrading in the north-south direction will make up a “rib” inscribable in a triangle representing one of the characterizing elements of the whole works when construction has been completed.

The rhythmic articulation of the openings, framed by the cold neatness of the surrounding walls are to this day interrupted in counterpoint only by the central cubic element destined for the ossuary, which, when the works have been completed, will be in visual balance with the conic tower of the common grave, also thanks to a strong color differentiation of the walls, instrumental for clear perception and identification within the sphere of the surrounding townscape.

I cannot be Postmodern, as I have never been Modern

– Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi’s unfinished San Cataldo Cemetery is considered one of the first and most important Postmodern buildings, even though the architect denied being part of the controversial movement.

Aldo Rossi San Cataldo Cemetery Plans
Site plan of the San Cataldo Cemetery, courtesy of the Aldo Rossi Foundation

Site plan of the San Cataldo Cemetery, courtesy of the Aldo Rossi Foundation

San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena Gallery of Images
About Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi (1931 – 1997) was an Italian architect and designer who achieved international recognition in four distinct areas: architectural theory, drawing and design, and product design. He was one of the leading exponents of the postmodern movement. He was the first Italian to receive the Pritzker Prize for architecture. In his writings, Rossi criticized the lack of understanding of the city in current architectural practice. He argued that a city must be studied and valued as something constructed over time; of particular interest are urban artifacts that withstand the passage of time. Rossi held that the city remembers its past (our “collective memory”) and used that memory through monuments; that is, monuments give structure to the city. Inspired by Europe’s ancient cities’ persistence, Rossi strove to create similar structures immune to obsolescence.

Cite this article: "San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi" in ArchEyes, April 11, 2021, https://archeyes.com/san-cataldo-cemetery-aldo-rossi/.