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Civica Pinacoteca di Cento: Guercino's home gets a makeover

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Reopened after 11 years, with restoration and layout by Open Project, the museum dedicated to the most famous citizen

CENTO (FERRARA). The cultural rebirth of a city can also take place with the reopening of its most important museum container. This is the case in Cento with the Civica Pinacoteca named after Guercino, its most famous citizen, which was restored and refurbished 11 years after the earthquake that struck Emilia in 2012.

By Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666), a 17th-century painter known as Guercino, the newly reopened pinacoteca preserves the world's largest concentration of works on the second floor: 16 altarpieces and paintings, 20 detached frescoes and 11 drawings also from loans. A total of 184 paintings and sculptures, drawings, and detached frescoes by artists including Scarsellino, Guido Reni, Ludovico Carracci, and Matteo Loves that were kept in the Sassuolo collection center during the interregnum phase are housed in the renovated museum.

After about two years of work, the architecture and engineering firm Open Project, winner of the tenders for both the project of restoration, consolidation and seismic adaptation, and the museum layout, gives back to the city an important piece of its cultural heritage, thanks to funding from the Commissioner delegated for the 2012 earthquake reconstruction of Regione Emilia-Romagna amounting to 2,955,000 euros and a ministerial contribution of 988,900 euros from the Fondo Cultura 2021.

A conservative consolidation project, with a 60 percent increase in the degree of safety compared to the pre-intervention state, which involved the two historic buildings (Pinacoteca and Archivio notarile) L-shaped with porticoes on Via Matteotti and Via Ugo Bassi, the 1970s building that now houses the Guercino International Study Center. If on the surface everything seems to have remained the same, it is at the entrance that the breakthrough brought by the architectural design is evident, both in the interpretation of museum needs and spaces, and in the design of the layout in terms of the visual usability of the works on display.

An integrated design of the various interventions for the removal of architectural barriers, implementation of the principles of universal design, structural and plant engineering adaptations, internal distribution, provision of space for temporary exhibitions, new finishes in accordance with the Soprintendenza in charge, and an exhibition route on the two levels of the building by Lorenzo Lorenzini and Elena Bastelli of the Municipality's Ufficio Cultura.

Among the many punctual interventions, those that most highlight the care given to details, despite the meager budget, include: the sugar paper blue coloring in different shades of all the walls that echoes that of Guercino's skies, the internal iron boarding of the passages between the exhibition rooms with change of flooring to Venetian terrazzo or bluish gray stone slab, the ad hoc design of the display elements in the rooms, the clarity of the contents of the captions complete with QR-codes, the elimination of shadows and reflections thanks to the ceiling lighting system with projectors and the concealment of the windows by means of counterwalls that also contain the air conditioning systems. Counter-walls and plinths that change according to the work and its format by defining niches, book supports, tilting or bending in space with the common denominator of dark gray calamine iron perimeters with bluish veins.

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