Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy / Amoretti + Calvi + Ranalli

Architect: Aldo Amoretti + Marco Calvi + Giancarlo Ranalli
Location: Santo Stefano al mare, IM,
Project Year: 2003-2005
Construction year: 2005-2006
Photographs: Aldo Amoretti

The purpose of the project is the amplification of a small municipals cemetery of Santo Stefano al Mare on the north-west side of Italy in front of the Mediterranean sea.

The new intervention is situated on a small land strip between the old cemetery’s wall and the waterfront way. This strip is orientated from east to west and runs parallel to the coast. The ground floor level (+5 m) is on an intermediate level between the sea level (0) and the old cemetery level (+8 m).

The entrance is located on the waterfront way (+2 m) and it was an old structure . The existing structure was poorly executed under an old contract.

The project is planned according to the local traditional cemetery typology, where the rectangular interments (tumuli of earth or slabs) are distributed on the ground in sequence.

The request of the municipal administration to build tombs of three and four levels brought us a plan based on a sequence of extruded rectangles to obtain series of prismatic blocks. Those prismatic blocks, when distributed on the ground, give shape to the intervention.

floor plan

At the same time, such blocks enclose the wall and the burials, while their disposition in the west-east produce a sense of gaping spaces for the ways, and in the north south a sense of the opening that allows a constant visual contact with the sea and the wall of the existing cemetery.

Each block is composed by two structural concrete walls. They are covered by Carrara marble slabs on the roof and on the front and back facades; inside each prism there are assembled the tombs previously prefabricated.

On the whole, while looking down on the new construction it produces a sense of an expanse tombstone.

This simple way of project, have permeated to not build the enclosure walls around the cemetery , and to concentrate on one repetitive element all the various functions. The prismatic block movement in the area facilitates to obtain the passages and the useful spaces and to creates a dimensional control during the execution of the project. All the work is based on a 30 cm module.

Only two materials are used : concrete in same different ways and Carrara marble slabs.

The main way is used for interment and to join the old and the new part of the cemetery, it is paved with washed cement conglomerate, The gravel strip between the main way and the prismatic blocks is designed to pick up the rain water.

The rear way is used after services and it is paved with untied gravel. There are two small gardens between the old cemetery wall and the tombs in the back. The remaining service area, along with the chapel of rest, the parking lot, the restrooms and the warehouse, are located on the waterfront level.

The work is planned according to the municipal administration austerity budget, covering 850 sqm at the cost of 250 € / sqm.

The contained costs will make the burial lots available at an equitable price.

Cite: "Santo Stefano Cemetery in Italy / Amoretti + Calvi + Ranalli" 25 Mar 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Fino

    This is actually very nice and respectful. I bet the sounds from the shore adds to the serenity of it all.

  • mathieu

    c’est de la merde ce cimetière, on est déjà mort avant de le voir.
    En plus les mecs qui l’ont fait ils sont trop bête je peux le dire j’ai pris une bière avec eux l’autre soir. Mais bon dommage qu’ils ne construisent pas plus souvent, ils sauveraient la côtes d’azur de l’urbicide en cours. Alors cotisons nous tous, pour leur payer une autre commande!

    la Colombe kamikaze

  • Partick Bateman

    Filing cabinets for dead humans

  • acotadecalle

    lightly reminds me the cesar portela’s cementery in fisterra, galicia, spain.

    both great projets

  • chris j hello

    Looks like a bunch of fridges have been dumped, maybe they’re old morgue fridges.

  • jlbr

    Like Mathiue commented, it looks dead already, I mean, it might be “respectful” but it is also just completely sterilized and just plain boring. I mean, yes, the people in there are dead, but does that mean you have to put them in the most anonymous, boring and sanitized boxes you can come up with?
    I completely hate the idea that death has to be a sterilized concept that we need to put aside from our lives and try to forget about.
    The dead, their memory, and the public visiting a cemetery should have a space that is both respectful and lively, lively in the sense that the people go there to celebrate the life of the deceased loved one, not to put away their remains in a locker and pretend death is not a part of life.

    • jp

      people go there to mourn and remember their dead loved one… You suggest dressing up the cemetary for a party! We celebrate the lives of our dead loved ones by remembering them. We don’t need to be surrounded by some architect’s crazy idea for a cemetary. The space should be pure and respectful. Being “lively” would contradict its respect. Besides, its site gives it enough excitement. You simply have no appreciation for the purity of space because this whole generation, like you, is wrapped up in spectacle and awe. We tend to miss what is really beautiful. Just like you have missed the beauty of this sacred space.

  • Opium

    Well I think it’s interesting if we look at it from the perspective of being a metaphor of our comtemporary look on death…we don’t won’t remember..we want to forgett and move on… that sense human containers that prevent you from seeing the beautiful mediterranean horizon is disturbing yet very comtemporary.

  • Terry Glenn Phipps

    Mathieu has a point that the vast majority of development along the Cote d’Azur (and the Italian Riviera) has been usurious and destructive. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to stop people from building hideous seaside villages and holiday whatnot.

    That said, most of the commentary here comes from people, it seems anyway, who have never visited an Italian cemetery. Different cultures do have vastly different approaches to death and the Italian one is very particular.

    The main reference I get from this work is Eisenmann’s holocaust memorial in Berlin, which is one of the most successful structures I have ever seen. In Berlin the site lines are such that once you are inside the grid there is an overwhelming sense of the magnitude of death and its inevitability. Once you look around a stone you see another one. However, the monument does have its limits; it is not an infinite labyrinth. Therefore, walking through it you might catch a glimpse of another human being and eventually return to the life of the city beyond.

    What I like about this structure is that it does some of the same things. It provides a regular set of glimpses of the Mediterranean sea beyond without becoming some seaside promenade. Instead, as is consistent with Catholic Rite, the site is inward looking and dedicated to its function as necropolis. In that sense it doesn’t ignore its location it simply modulates it to fit the function of cemetery.

    Actually, this outward glimpse of the seascape is a fairly radical departure. If you think, for example, of the Isola di San Michele in Venice, the necropolis turns its back entirely on the Venetian lagoon; this is a rather more typical form of the Italian crypt.

    Personally, I think the city was brave to do this, the architects have done it with means that are economical monetarily while still being appropriate. Most of all they have done it with a formal economy that tweaks tradition just enough to be interesting without being disrespectful.

    Terry Glenn Phipps

  • jsl

    The photographs remind me of another iconic Italian image…cabanas at the beach, more or less in line, fronting the sea. Regarding others comments, it could be argued that rather than blocking views,the architects chose to frame vistas of the sea, the sky, and the horizon making a more powerful commentary. Also, at what point does minimalist become “sterilized”?

  • jlbr

    Interesting debate I must say, some comments are quite interesting. For example, Terry, where exactly did you get the notion that a Catholic cemetery has to be “inward-looking”, I myself am a Catholic and have seen many cemeteries in different countries, Catholic and not-Catholic, and have never realized they had to be “inward-looking”, also, the Italian approach to death is particular in which way exactly? One that dictates they have to build minimalist and “inward-looking” cemeteries perhaps?
    I tend to be of the opinion of Opium, who believes the cemetery is a reflection of our own times and societies, if we tend to look at death as a sterilized matter, our cemeteries will look like that too. I recommend an essay by Margaret Watkins, published by the Urban History Review (Canadian publication). She analyses the notion that cemeteries are mirroring the changes in society, to quote her: “The cemetery is a cultural landscape that represents, albeit slowly, social changes in communities.” I believe this cemetery is a sample of that. You contend that the cemetery could not be a seaside promenade, well I ask, why not??? To be catching glimpses of the sea in between the lockers makes the cemetery superior in design, atmosphere and respectfulness than if it was open to the view of the sea?? You really believe that?

  • Richie

    I think the architect was aiming for serenity but I find the blankness of it sort of chilling.

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  • borja

    you guys talk about how you see death, but would be wise to see it from the local point of view, a little town in italy, i bet it is christian and traditionally minded

    what about their point of view about death? should we change it?

    it’s like talking about a church, are they too boring? should they be more amusing? (although everybody dies, and not everybdoy goes to the church)

    mathieu, ça te dirait un petit cours d’anglais?

  • Al

    It may recall the berlin memorial, but there is a vast difference between a solid heavy stone block and something that reminds a cheap shoebox, which may contain the dead body in it. Really cheap project. Like a disneyland.

    Also reminds me a block of garages. Like you hold your tools there.
    And too anonymous. You know that your relative is just one faceless body in a row and who cares which one.

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  • delta perdana

    light is the main aspect of our life. the death and the light is a brilliant combination.