Step inside the dramatic Cava Arcari by David Chipperfield

Cava Arcari by David Chipperfield reimagines a series of caves outside Vicenza as a multifunctional event space

cava arcari in the caves outside vicenza
(Image credit: Simon Menges)

Cava Arcari is hard to categorise. The project is set in the countryside outside the Italian city of Vicenza, in the Arcari caves – a rich source of Pietra di Vicenza stone until operations stopped in the 1950s. Between 2010 and 2018, the Milan-based arm of David Chipperfield Architects transformed the site from a working quarry to a multifunctional event and performance venue like no other, deep beneath the ground in the richly wooded land of the region’s Berici Hills. High drama and a powerful connection to nature dominate throughout.  

water and steps inside cava arcari

(Image credit: Simon Menges)

Cava Arcari by David Chipperfield

The interior, which was developed in collaboration with local Venetian stone and marble producer Laboratorio Morseletto, is imposing and distinctive, with a deeply geological quality that aligns with the site’s origins and former life. A series of platforms, steps and ramps inside offer circulation, stage and seating options in a loose, flexible layout – referencing the stepped tiers in ancient Roman theatres, or Swiss architect Adolphe Appia’s legendary stage sets. ‘The intervention has created a dialogue between the accidental architecture of the caves and the formalised stage and seating platforms that represent occupation and performance,’ writes the Chipperfield team. 

inside cava arcari

(Image credit: Simon Menges)

Naturally, everything inside is made out of Vicenza stone. Honouring the site’s history and working with the noble, natural material, the architects added and carved out volumes in the calcareous rock to create an atmosphere, which, combined with surrounding water-filled chambers, befits the striking visual spectacle of the caves. The lighting, designed by Viabizzuno, becomes a crucial element in the dramatic character of this unparalleled venue. 

cava arcari in italy

(Image credit: Simon Menges) 

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).