The genius loci of the Library Archive Emilio Sereni

At Gattatico (Reggio Emilia), a building where architecture meets landscape
Library Archive Emilio Sereni, east side

In the middle of the Emilian countryside, halfway between Reggio Emilia and Parma, there is the locality Campi Rossi where, for at least a century, there is a country house to the west of which is the building, inaugurated in 2008, which houses the Emilio Sereni Archive Library transferred from the Alcide Cervi Institute. The building occupies a part of the farm of Casa Cervi, a place with a high identity value for the whole territory of Reggio Emilia.

It is a physical space full of symbolic, historical, political and cultural values, designed to preserve the prestigious cultural, archival and documentary legacy of Emilio Sereni (1907-1977), a political, intellectual and historical man of agriculture and agricultural landscape.

Gattatico (RE), Emilio Sereni Archive Library, South side
The building

The structure of the building evokes that of the great barn of the farmhouse, a unit separated from the house of the farmer. It has a south-north orientation (south-facing) and develops on two floors; the roof is two-pitched in red tiles. The entrance is lateral, to the east, as it was in the farmhouses. It is accessed from the porch and, after crossing a rectangular room, you go up a red brick staircase – lightened by an iron structure – to the upper floor, where the view sweeps over the Parco dei Campirossi.

Materials and colours

Three materials are mainly used: brick, wood and glass. In warm red are the brick floors of the ground floor, the porticoed area and the roof tiles. The floors on the second floor, those of the library and the archives are made of light wood with wide slats, laid lengthwise to extend the space beyond the boundaries of the glass walls. Here the eye can sweep over the surrounding countryside, as far as the border hedge that closes the horizon. On the interior walls, the white of the plaster contrasts with the dark brown of the wood that covers them and which is repeated on the outside for the beams and trusses of the roof.

Gattatico (RE), Emilio Sereni Archive Library, study hall
The dialogue between architecture and landscape

A continuous ribbon of large windows that runs along the entire length of the building, on the ground and first floors, allows you to immerse yourself in nature: trees, lawn, hedges and sky enter the library rooms and are reflected in the windows that divide the offices and reading rooms. The brightness of the sky also penetrates from above thanks to a long knife of light that cuts the ceiling in two; a theory of skylights further expands the space of the ceiling.
The building reflects, in the uniformity of the tones and the harmony of the volumetric relations, the daily pragmatism of the peasant world. Here we are talking about land, farmers and struggles for the possession of the land, an agricultural landscape defined by Sereni as “that form that man, in the course and for the purposes of his agricultural production activities, consciously and systematically impresses on the natural landscape” (Emilio Sereni, Storia del paesaggio agrario italiano, Laterza, Bari, 1961, 1st ed.).

Gabriella Bonini

Gabriella Bonini

Degree in Literature and PhD in Science, Technology and Biotechnology Agribusiness (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), she is the Scientific Manager of the Emilio Sereni Library-Archive of the Alcide Cervi Institute and of the Landscape School (RE). She has edited several volumes including Narrazioni intorno a Filippo Re (Diabasis, Parma, 2006), Geografie, storie, paesaggi per un’Italia da cambiare (Aracne, Roma, 2013), Paesaggi in trasformazione (Compositori, Bologna, 2014) and the entire Quaderni Series (still in existence since 2009) dedicated to Landscape School. With Rossano Pazzagli, Italia contadina. Dall’esodo rurale al ritorno alla campagna (Aracne, Roma, 2018).