Aldo Rossi, Gianni Braghieri. Cemetery of San Cataldo, Modena, Italy, Aerial perspective. 1971

Aldo Rossi, Gianni Braghieri Cemetery of San Cataldo, Modena, Italy, Aerial perspective 1971

  • Not on view

Aldo Rossi designed the Cemetery of San Cataldo for a 1971 competition that called for an extension to the existing nineteenth-century Costa Cemetery. Employing conventions of perspective developed in the fifteenth century, Rossi uses an aerial view to give a sense of the cemetery in both plan and elevation. One enters this wall-enclosed space through a gate opposite what seems to be an abandoned house, a cubic structure designed as a collective or nondenominational temple to be used for funeral, religious, or civil ceremonies. As one proceeds along the central axis, it passes through successive rectangular structures, riblike ossuaries that rise in height as they diminish in length. The journey is punctuated by a cone-shaped smokestack monumentalizing a communal grave for the unknown, and referencing the industrial landscape beyond. Rossi's design is rooted in an Enlightenment typology of the cemetery as a walled structure set on the outskirts of town. It not only recalls the adjacent Costa Cemetery but, as Rossi says, "complies with the image of a cemetery that everyone has." A structure without a roof, it is a deserted building intended for those who no longer need the protection of shelter-a house for the dead in which life and death exist as a continuum within the collective memory.

Through his use of aerial perspective, elemental form, and color, Rossi constructs a visual passage through the drawing that corresponds to the journey contra natura through the cemetery. Shadows stem from a particular light source yet reference no particular time of day. Perspective, traditionally universalizing, is colored with a Northern Italian palette, and draws our eye not back into space but rather up the page. Like the cemetery itself, the drawing presents a road toward abandonment in which time seems to stand still.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Tina di Carlo, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, pp. 160-161.
Crayon and graphite on sepia diazotype
24 x 49 3/4" (61 x 126.4 cm)
Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation
Object number
Architecture and Design

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].