Bianco + Gotti Architetti: chapels in Cavernago Cemetery

Architecture for the departed helps the living to remember.

"Is there life after death?" has been written by an anonymous hand on a Belfast wall. A question we all come up against sooner or later and, in a bid to exorcise the fear of death, architects and artists have formulated their own response over the years, reproducing the city in an ad hoc space, the cemetery – an enclosed area dotted with constructions, streets, and squares reminiscent of the urban fabric and daily life. The living even inhabit the city of the dead in Cairo. It takes sensitivity to interpret the theme of death and Angelo Bianco and Mara Gotti – whose two funerary chapels in the Cavernago cemetery, in the province of Bergamo, are published here – have exploited natural light, a solitary shrub and the delicate colour of stone to remind us of those who are no longer here. (from the design report) Laura Bossi

The two chapels belong to different families but have been built as part of a single, monolithic block. This is barely raised off the ground and is completely faced with adjoining slabs of sandblasted Istrian stone that run as far as the roof. A bronzed brass sheet marks the building's separation from the pre-existing chapels, drawing them back from the line of the front and giving the new building stereometric independence.

The positioning of the corner has allowed the entrances to be placed on different sides, giving each chapel a sense of privacy. A wall as high as the new block itself separates off the functional areas of the cemetery: this too is faced in Istrian stone and its positioning away from the main block creates a narrow, intimate green space where a maple has been planted.

The entrance to the first chapel – indicated by a change in the flooring – is by way of a corridor terminating in a door faced wholly in oak. Inside there is a large cross (also made from oak) as tall and wide as the chapel itself: it has been placed just in front of the glass wall at the back, which reveals the garden bounded by the wall.

The entrance to the second chapel is set on the opposite side to the entrance to the first. The door includes a knocker fixed in a bronzed brass sheet and a fixed window on the same plane. A large slab of pietra dorata set back from the frame creates a contrast with the transparency of the glass behind and regulates the light coming in. As in the first chapel, the design includes one completely transparent wall, giving a view of the narrow garden. The slabs closing the niches for the funerary urns are fixed invisibly using a release anchoring system that does not affect the geometry of the large stone slabs and the design of the precise colourings and alignments. The chapel is furnished with simple wooden seats and surfaces.

Angelo Bianco and Mara Gotti were both born in Bergamo, Angelo in 1965 and Mara in 1964, and graduated from Milan Polytechnic in 1991. In 1997 they began working permanently together after a period of independent professional experience. They work for both public and private clients and specialise in creating and developing residential, industrial and commercial projects, as well as in designing interiors. They live and work in Bergamo (from the design report).

Chapels in Cavernago Cemetery, Bergamo
Architects: Angelo Bianco and Mara Gotti
Structural engineering: Giampietro Lodetti
Building contractor: Virgilio Gherardi
Stonework: Remuzzi Marmi
Ironwork: Rondifer
Bronze work: Bagatti bronzisti
Bespoke fittings: Ferrari Legno
Design phase: 2008
Construction phase: 2009
Site area: 47.8 m2
Covered surface area: 47.8 m2
Total cubage: 113 m3

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