Marco Sironi
Serra da Arrábida, Portugal

This project started from the close reading of the Jaspe Quarry, ‘Serra da Arrábida’ in Portugal, a unique place within a powerful natural scenery where the remains of an old quarry carved into the landscape and the trace left by the human’s work, melt with the main lines of the cliff. The international architecture competition required to develop ideas for the design of a Mausoleum, a place of memory and an intimate space for introspection. The intervention has been conceived as a tranquil journey that frames the elements of the site along its path – the earth, the sea and the sky  – enhancing and emphasizing the relationship with the landscape, the memory of the place and prompting inner reflections.

The journey to the quarries of Serra da Arrábida is voyage in the powerful landscape where you cannot help but silently observe. Crossing the thick vegetation, you hear the sound of the gravel under your feet, the wind stroking your skin and the light embracing you all around. Going down, the vegetation that before was opening sometimes and giving some glance of the surrounding, opens gently turning completely to the coast to then close again in its density. Following the trace in the landscape left by the people worked and explored the quarries you encounter a sudden staircase excavated in the rock. A significant change of height that recall the entrance of a sacred ipogean space. By walking down into the earth, your attention is taken by the rough rock wall on your side that gradually disappear into the floor and opening to the sea. Here the vastness of the horizon transports you far away, almost like a bird following the streams of the wind.

After, almost finding your way through the shrubs, the horizontal stone block appears and guides you like a natural edge to an open space created by the human excavation of the earth. Here, surrounded by nature and the geometrical walls cut by man, you can sit down and lose the time and  perhaps understanding the landscape. By The view of the tall tower that, until now has been just partly visible, you will be prompted to entering into the small framed fracture of the quarry, the sign of passage to a different kind of space. Step by step into the dark and fresh threshold your eyes will adapt to the sudden change of light arriving to see an entrance of a chamber, a cave.

A space of introspection and remembrance in solitude and tranquillity. Here, the atmospherics events are free to enter, enlightening and, occasionally, wetting by a small opening above the tower a block of Portuguese sedimentary rock. At this point, caught by another small opening on the wall you will exit from the gateway of the transcendent dimension of the cave. Here the Portuguese strong light will flow on the two white high wall that cut the soil opening to at the sky thus bringing you back to the material world and leading to the last room. The deepest open room, enclosed by the three prominent walls of the quarry where you will be face-to-face with power of the landscape.

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