San Cataldo Cemetery – Modena, Italy - Atlas Obscura

San Cataldo Cemetery

This ultra-modern burial building would have stacked the dead like a giant filing cabinet. 


While construction on the San Cataldo Cemetery, a high-minded architectural proof of concept, was never completed, the intention of the brightly colored grave house can still be discerned from the rows and rows of identical tombs slots that lay empty.

Built in 1972 by Italian architect and theorist Aldo Rossi, the square building was created to illustrate a number of abstract concepts Rossi had previously written about. One of Rossi’s first bildings to actually be built, the loud orange cube takes the formalism of cemetery layouts and explodes the concept into the utilitarian edifice of the San Cataldo tomb. The building stands on rows of concrete stilts and the center of the structure is an open courtyard where one can see the tight grid of empty burial niches arrayed in the floors overhead. At regular intervals among the burial squares, “window” blocks open to the outside, giving the exterior of the building an almost decorative grid.

The building won a 1972 architectural competition and was continually worked on until 1976 when Rossi suffered a car accident that prevented him from continuing the building’s development. Ever since, the structure has laid empty with nary a body to be seen. 

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