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© Hisao Suzuki
© Hisao Suzuki
© Hisao Suzuki
"The northwestern corner of the Iberian peninsula, around Santiago de Compostela, is also the westernmost point on the European mainland. ‘Finisterre’, or land´s end, is what the locals call this stretch of coast. The rocky cliffs and broad expanse of sea provided the inspiration for the granite cubes of this cemetery – they line the winding path like flotsam washed up by the tide. For a place of contemplation this site sloping down to the sea seems like the perfect spot. A harmonious architectural design, in tune with the natural surroundings, was important for a place where the living come to remember the dead. Each granite cube contains twelve graves; access to the interior is via a covered entrance which protects against the elements and provides the necessary privacy. Each ‘burial chamber’ rests on a rubblestone plinth with steps in front hewn out of a single granite block. So far sixteen of these chambers have been constructed, each accessible from the sea and measuring 3.30 metres high by 5 metres long. Built of solid stone slabs held together only by gravity and a thin layer of mortar, these buildings in César Portela’s cemetery revive an old Galician tradition that is now dying out. Walls, floors and ceilings are all of solid, approx. 200 mm thick slabs of grey Mondariz granite, 3.30 m high and 0.72 m wide. The stone was quarried locally. The granite floor tiles rest on a mortar bed on top of a concrete slab. No additional bracing is needed for the walls thanks to the heavy roof slab resting on top. As the stone is very dense, no water can penetrate, and therefore no vegetation can take hold on the rough flamed surfaces. "