Aldo Amoretti & Marco Calvi Architetti

Graveyard extension

Armea di Sanremo, Liguria, Italy

December 2003
The cemetery extension at Armea di Sanremo in Liguria near Monaco is intended to retain the graveyard close to the centre of town to obviate the need to build a new one far out beyond the suburbs. Carefully terraced into the natural slope above the traditional cemetery, the new extension has the traditional virtues of a modern Italian necropolis: it is dignified, quiet and thoughtfully organized to give prominence to individual graves, without the place becoming a battleground for competing monuments.
It has three main parts: the low density burial area with individual graves partly dug into the hillside; an individual ossuary tower; and a cloistered ossuary and store for cinerary remains. If you can afford to be buried in one of the individual graves, you lie there for 40 years, after which your remains will be removed from the earth, transferred to a small urn and stored indefinitely in the tower. Removal and later storage of remains is quite common in Catholic countries where, historically, the period of lying in the earth was much shorter: in medieval times, churchyards were ploughed up every seven years and the remains unceremoniously dumped in the crypt. At Sanremo, relatives will have much of a lifetime in which to pay their respects to the dead before the remains are moved to the communal tower and the individual becomes part of the communal.
The remains of less well-off people (and those who are cremated) are housed in a small cloister opposite the tower. This common ossuary is a calm, private place with a floor of roughly broken rock, stone seats and marble walls, with a slit in the long one to allow views south down the valley.
Throughout, materials have been chosen with much care. Paths are gravel, stairs precast concrete. Retaining walls are in coursed local rubble. Marble is reserved for honorific positions: the tomb chests themselves, the cloister and the urn columbaria in the tower (which are themselves partly enclosed by a finely wrought concrete structure). Gradually, the planting (rosemary for remembrance and other north Mediterranean shrubs) will soften the landscape and shade the graves.
The jury was impressed by the schemes simplicity, its response to landscape, and its tenderness.

Aldo Amoretti & Marco Calvi Architetti, Sanremo