AN ODE TO MILAN’s MONUMENTALE CEMETERY

The Monumentale cemetery in Milan is the most romantic place I’ve ever visited. I used to go there as a child, in sun or rain, heat or snow, led by the hand to place flowers on my grandparents’ small but beautiful grave, which had been designed by a gentleman who told me to be famous, the architect Piero Portaluppi (who also built our house). I walked down the cemetery avenue with awe, afraid of meeting skeletons, and one after another encountered absurd and fascinating monuments to ghosts, a hodgepodge of micro-architectures, a jumble of enormous, languid, grieving marble figures, of angels, of tears in gilded bronze, of crosses — an environment beyond the human that was the summing up, the lapidary catalog, the funereal triumph of the industrialists and bourgeoisie of Milan, all lined up in a patchwork of little palaces. This was a triumphant performance outside of logic and context, the board for a giant chess game, a huge city in miniature, a backstage full of love. For to be true to the game, Milanese high society had to buy both a box at La Scala and a tomb at the Monumentale, designed by a famous architect and covered with rhetorical inscriptions. And that’s how, in the 1960s, I also came to build, on the edge of a gravel path, a severe expressionist chapel with macabre inhabitants.

Text by Alessandro Mendini. Photography by Carlo Lavatori.

Taken from PIN–UP 16, Spring Summer 2014.