Microscape uses stone-filled cages to update Italian cemetery

Cemetery Castel San Gimignano has been renovated by Italian architecture studio Microscape using local limestone stacked in metal baskets.

The church of Castel di San Gimignano, a medieval town in the Tuscan countryside, was built before the 14th century. Microscape, a studio based in Lucca, designed the update to its cemetery with as light a touch as possible.

Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape

The architects added dry stone walls in the form of gabions – the metal baskets filled with rocks normally used for erosion control – to mark the pathways and protect the existing terraced landscape. These metal cages full of local limestone also flank two new cemetery niches.

Facing each other, the stone niches bracket a place for reflection that has been furnished with a simple stone bench and angled to catch the sun.

Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape

"The dry stone walls represent the direct physical and spiritual connection with the lives of those who have lived in the environmental, civic and cultural context of Castel San Gimignano," said Microscape.

"The chapel-like shape of the new niches creates a space suitable for prayer and remembrance."

Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape

Sedum plants top the new walls and flowering jasmine has been trained up the metal struts of the gabions.

"As the seasons pass, they will change the wall's appearance," said the studio. "A metaphor for how memory and life are all one in the transience of life."

Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape

Microscape also restored the plaster of the existing chapel and cemetery walls. New cypress trees were planted to "soften the visual impact" of some existing cemetery niches dating from the 1970s.

Debris and the remains of old buildings were cleared from the upper field, and an old dry stone wall has been repaired.

Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape

Existing stepped pathways, formed of prefabricated concrete blocks, have been covered with gravel and plants.

For the renovation of another burial ground in Northern Italy, local architect Mirco Simonato Architetto used white stone walls and gabled structures to create more space for private contemplation.

Photography is by Filippo Poli.


Project credits:

Client: Municipality of San Gimignano
Architect: Microscape
Director of works and safety: Microscape
Team members: Patrizia Pisaniello, Saverio Pisaniello, Luigi Aldiccioni
Geologists: Francesco Rinaldi, Luca Bargagna Studio
Executing company: Costruzioni Sirio srl

More images and plans

Plan
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape
Cemetery Castel San Gimignano by Microscape