Medici Chapels Exit, Florence (Italy)
Studio di Architettura Zermani Associati 

Saint Matthew left word in the Gospel that the gate to life is small. And that is how visitors may feel as they complete their rounds of the Medici chapels in Florence’s Basilica di San Lorenzo: a walk – separate from the actual temple’s – which used to pass by the pantheon where the Grand Dukes of Tuscany wished to be interred, but now ends with a discreet exit to the busy street bordering the apse. Attached to the bottom of Michelangelo’s exquisite sacristy, this endpoint refrains from trying to compete with the master, but invokes its marmoreal serenity and its allegorical chant to finitude. The stairwell that connects the crypts to the street is conceived as an open tomb, like an image from a 15th-century fresco which the bench, unaligned with the stairs, reinforces. And just as the chapels combine grandiloquence with exquisite attention to detail, powerful travertine slabs are balanced out by a delicate glass roof that makes the narrow ascent to life lead also to light.