Caged Serenity at Castel San Gimignano

Ingenuity and serenity collide in this one-of-kind project in Italy. 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.



Preview (opens in a new tab)Microscape, a studio based in Lucca, designed the update to its cemetery with as light a touch as possible. 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. Sedum plants top the new walls and flowering jasmine has been trained up the metal struts of the gabions.


“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.”



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






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
Photography: Filippo Poli

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