Aldo Rossi's Modena cemetery design of 1971 has been one of the most widely discussed architectural projects of the past decade. Now under construction, on the basis of a revised plan of 1976, Rossi's cemetery demonstrates his use of established architectural types, in unexpected combinations, to convey specific ideas about architecture and life. Some critics, such as Manfredo Tafuri, have taken the view that the meaning of Rossi's design cannot be verbalized. This article seeks to demonstrate that the opposite is the case. Here, Rossi's sources and writings are explored in tandem, in order to unravel the complex message contained in his cemetery design. In particular, Rossi's debts to Piranesi, Boullée. Loos, Hannes Meyer, Le Corbusier, and de Chirico are discussed. In addition, Rossi's uses of architectural types, autobiographical elements, and an anthropomorphic image are considered. Ultimately, the cemetery exemplifies Rossi's idea that architecture has a particular importance because it remains, through time, as a testament to humanity.

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