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BEYOND THE CITY OF THE DEAD – Aldo Rossi Modena Cemetery Conversion


The Cemetery of Modena by Aldo Rossi is undoubtedly one of the most influential Italian icons of the last fifty years. Starting from this assumption, this research deals with the theme of “lacuna” in architecture and aims to highlight what are the causes of Rossi’s Cemetery’s incompleteness and the consequences that it entails into contemporary urban dynamics. The Cemetery by Aldo Rossi will probably never be completed. In fact, it is slowly and relentlessly emptying. In this direction, this work seeks to represent a possible solution for an actual urban issue through the conversion of the Cemetery into a large scale cultural hub, able to comply with the current city’s needs.

Rossi’s cemetery stands today as an urban fragment. The entire central vertebral spine has never been built, as well as the iconic cone and a considerable portion of the perimeter porticoed buildings. The reason for its incompleteness concerns the decision to build it by steps, in accordance with the citizens’ needs. Nevertheless, most of Modena‘s people prefers other funeral structures, condemning Rossi’s cemetery to be still incomplete. The social failure of Rossi’s cemetery contributed to cause the saturation of Modena’s funeral network and the birth of new cemeteries. Furthermore, considering the cemetery balance, the buildings of Rossi’s cemetery will be probably empty within about fifty years, abandoned even from the dead. From this scenario, it is therefore possible to open a reflection about the possible developments of Rossi's cemetery in accordance with the current city's needs. By analyzing the city trend has emerged that Modena’s cultural system has significantly grown during the last years. For this reason the main cultural institute of the city (the Museum Palace) lacks space, which compromises the museum activity and generates the need to find new cultural spaces. Where could the Museum Palace find a further 10˙000 m2 of museum surface? What’s the most sustainable way to relocate the cultural spaces in accordance with the city’s needs? How to create a new accessible cultural center without increasing the city ground consumption?

A possible solution consists in converting the Cemetery of Aldo Rossi into a cultural hub, by accelerating its actual emptying process in order to get a free building available to host the cultural heritage. The strategy can be summarized in two distinct actions: 1) Relocation of bodies into Modena’s cemetery network; 2) Transfer of cultural heritage from the Museum Palace to the free spaces of the cemetery. Approximately 90% of transferring institutes fit inside the existing cemetery structure. The remaining part, as well as all the new museum facilities, requires an extension of the existing building. But how to “complete” such an emblematic architectural masterpiece? The purpose is to reach a crucial equilibrium point between specificity of place and autonomy of space, seeking to create a coherent relationship with the existing fragment and simultaneously reinvent the shape in accordance with new uses and its renovated urban role. The extension, therefore, aims to reinterpret original roles and relationships by integrating the fragment with a coordinated group of five cleanly defined elements, visually detached from the existing ones, yet working together as a cultural cluster: the Wall, the Plate, the Central spine, the Graft, the Prosthesis.

The Board:
BEYOND THE CITY OF THE DEAD – Aldo Rossi Modena Cemetery Conversion Board
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