Skip to main content
Venice 2014

Public Chapel

Brion Tomb Complex, Chapel Exterior

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Interior, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

The temple is set apart and is visually isolated in a spot that is not finite space and does not have perspectival relationship to the central point, the tombs of the couple. It is open to the surrounding countryside, where the horizon forms a natural boundary and is rotated at 45 degrees to the direction of arrival and almost completely surrounded by water. Though the Brion family donated it to the townspeople its architectural design and location are completely integrated into the enclave. Because of its public use, especially for funerals, it has a public entrance on a cypress-lined road. The massive door is made from concrete lined with steel plates and is slightly raised from the ground. A small steel arm projects to the front and back from a steel-edged opening at the bottom of the door, and the brass wheels at its other edges run along steel rails embedded in the concrete paving. Considerable effort is required to opening the enormous door. Scarpa intended this to emphasize the ritualized nature of its operation. Walking into the long entryway of the chapel Scarpa blocked the view of the surrounding countryside with high concrete walls in order to direct the visitor’s view to the temple that rises from a pool of water. The side of the temple has five apertures ribbed with vertical ziggurat bands. Finally past all the obstacles and entryways the visitor reaches the top of the ramp where the temple remains.  

Brion Tomb Complex, Chapel Exterior

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Interior, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

The temple is set apart and is visually isolated in a spot that is not finite space and does not have perspectival relationship to the central point, the tombs of the couple. It is open to the surrounding countryside, where the horizon forms a natural boundary and is rotated at 45 degrees to the direction of arrival and almost completely surrounded by water. Though the Brion family donated it to the townspeople its architectural design and location are completely integrated into the enclave. Because of its public use, especially for funerals, it has a public entrance on a cypress-lined road. The massive door is made from concrete lined with steel plates and is slightly raised from the ground. A small steel arm projects to the front and back from a steel-edged opening at the bottom of the door, and the brass wheels at its other edges run along steel rails embedded in the concrete paving. Considerable effort is required to opening the enormous door. Scarpa intended this to emphasize the ritualized nature of its operation. Walking into the long entryway of the chapel Scarpa blocked the view of the surrounding countryside with high concrete walls in order to direct the visitor’s view to the temple that rises from a pool of water. The side of the temple has five apertures ribbed with vertical ziggurat bands. Finally past all the obstacles and entryways the visitor reaches the top of the ramp where the temple remains.  

Brion Tomb Complex, Chapel Interior

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Exterior, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

The doors entering into the temple are two double doors nested inside each other each with steel frames filled with a lattice of white concrete, hovering just above the floor and the ceiling. They sit on a square pivot hinge, contained in a brass cylinder that runs from the ceiling to the floor.  Scarpa referred to this set of doors as his “Mondrian doors” because of their simplistic neo-plastic quality. Upon entering through the doorframe the paved square stone floor steps down and the visitor is greeted with a full-height, freestanding, concrete shaped omega set away from the concrete walls and ceiling. The inner face of the shape is painted a deep blue color with gold-leafed ziggurat-stepped edging at the top and bottom.

Once inside the chapel the atmosphere is focused and calm however the serenity of this ambiance is in sharp contrast to the highly dynamic and polycentric architecture. The longer one stares, the more evident the highly complex geometries reveal themself.  The walls are lined with ten vertical windows, echoing the ones from the portico, that are almost floor to ceiling showcasing the pool of water that the temple is placed on. This allows the sunlight to shine through bouncing off the water’s surface onto the walls and ceiling. The temple’s ceiling has steep edged, polished plaster panels that are set in an l-shaped three-quarter square, into which a ziggurat-stepped wood pyramidal dome is opened above the altar. The altar below the square oculus is made from brass, also found in the hardware of the doors, with ziggurat-like details. On either wall behind the altar there are four square shaped windows with translucent pink Portuguese marble. The edges of the windows are cast in a pyramidal ziggurat pattern with gold leaf, these features aide in the amount of light that bounces off the steel that frames the marble.  

Brion Tomb Complex, Chapel Interior

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Exterior, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

The doors entering into the temple are two double doors nested inside each other each with steel frames filled with a lattice of white concrete, hovering just above the floor and the ceiling. They sit on a square pivot hinge, contained in a brass cylinder that runs from the ceiling to the floor.  Scarpa referred to this set of doors as his “Mondrian doors” because of their simplistic neo-plastic quality. Upon entering through the doorframe the paved square stone floor steps down and the visitor is greeted with a full-height, freestanding, concrete shaped omega set away from the concrete walls and ceiling. The inner face of the shape is painted a deep blue color with gold-leafed ziggurat-stepped edging at the top and bottom.

Once inside the chapel the atmosphere is focused and calm however the serenity of this ambiance is in sharp contrast to the highly dynamic and polycentric architecture. The longer one stares, the more evident the highly complex geometries reveal themself.  The walls are lined with ten vertical windows, echoing the ones from the portico, that are almost floor to ceiling showcasing the pool of water that the temple is placed on. This allows the sunlight to shine through bouncing off the water’s surface onto the walls and ceiling. The temple’s ceiling has steep edged, polished plaster panels that are set in an l-shaped three-quarter square, into which a ziggurat-stepped wood pyramidal dome is opened above the altar. The altar below the square oculus is made from brass, also found in the hardware of the doors, with ziggurat-like details. On either wall behind the altar there are four square shaped windows with translucent pink Portuguese marble. The edges of the windows are cast in a pyramidal ziggurat pattern with gold leaf, these features aide in the amount of light that bounces off the steel that frames the marble.  

Carlo Scarpa Brion Sanctuary Chapel Interior

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Interior, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

The use of light and the way it interacts with its surroundings is the last element inspected. This is constantly repeated in each of the structures. In all the structures one particular factor affected by light is the atmosphere. This effect is created by careful planning of light and shadow, by their interaction and by the use and juxtaposition of the different materials that absorb and reflect light so beautifully. Scarpa was able to achieve this again through the combination of building materials; light is filtered into the buildings, particularly the temple, creating alluring patterns at precise moments. The use of each material is key in modifying the quality of light, changing its color and intensity.


 

Carlo Scarpa Brion Sanctuary Chapel Interior

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Interior, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

The use of light and the way it interacts with its surroundings is the last element inspected. This is constantly repeated in each of the structures. In all the structures one particular factor affected by light is the atmosphere. This effect is created by careful planning of light and shadow, by their interaction and by the use and juxtaposition of the different materials that absorb and reflect light so beautifully. Scarpa was able to achieve this again through the combination of building materials; light is filtered into the buildings, particularly the temple, creating alluring patterns at precise moments. The use of each material is key in modifying the quality of light, changing its color and intensity.


 

Carlo Scarpa Brion Sanctuary Chapel Ceiling

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Ceiling, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole

Carlo Scarpa Brion Sanctuary Chapel Ceiling

Carlo Scarpa, Brion Sanctuary Temple Ceiling, ca. 1969-1978, San Vito d'Altivole