Lina Bo Bardi

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Lina Bo Bardi
Lina Bo Bardi, SESC Pompéia. (8736296851).jpg
Born(1914-12-05)December 5, 1914
Rome, Italy
DiedMarch 20, 1992(1992-03-20) (aged 77)
Casa de Vidro [pt], São Paulo, Brazil
BuildingsSão Paulo Museum of Art
Teatro Oficina
Casa do Benin [pt]
Sesc Pompeia [pt]
Casa de Vidro [pt]

Lina Bo Bardi, born Achillina Bo (December 5, 1914 – March 20, 1992) was an Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect. A prolific architect and designer, she devoted her working life, most of it spent in Brazil, to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. She was also known for her furniture and jewellery designs.[1]

Early life in Italy[edit]

Achillina Bo was born on December 5, 1914 in Rome, Italy.[2] Lina was the oldest child of Enrico and Giovana Bo, who later had another daughter named Graziella.[2] In 1939, she graduated from the Rome College of Architecture at the age of 25 with her final piece, "The Maternity and Infancy Care Centre".[2] She then moved to Milan to begin working with architect Carlo Pagani in the Studio Bo e Pagani, No 12, Via Gesù. Bo Bardi collaborated (until 1943) with architect and designer Giò Ponti on the magazine Lo Stile – nella casa e nell’arredamento.[3] In 1942, at the age of 28, she opened her own architectural studio on Via Gesù, but the lack of work during wartime soon led Bardi to take up illustration for newspapers and magazines such as Stile, Grazia, Belleza, Tempo, Vetrina and Illustrazione Italiana. Her office was destroyed by an aerial bombing in 1943. From 1944-5 Bardi was the Deputy Director of Domus magazine.[4][5]

The event prompted her deeper involvement in the Italian Communist Party. In 1945, Domus commissioned Bo Bardi to travel around Italy with Carlo Pagani and photographer Federico Patellani to document and evaluate the situation of the destroyed country. Bo Bardi, Pagani and Bruno Zevi established the weekly magazine A – Attualità, Architettura, Abitazione, Arte in Milan (A Cultura della Vita).[6] She also collaborated on the daily newspaper Milano Sera, directed by Elio Vittorini. Bo Bardi took part in the First National Meeting for Reconstruction in Milan, alerting people to the indifference of public opinion on the subject, which for her covered both the physical and moral reconstruction of the country.

In 1946, Bo Bardi moved to Rome and married the art critic and journalist Pietro Maria Bardi.[4]

Career in Brazil[edit]

The São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), a well known work of Lina Bo Bardi

In October 1946 Bo Bardi and her husband traveled to South America.[2] Because they had participated in the Italian resistance movement, they had found life in post-war Italy difficult.[5] In Rio, they were received by the IAB (Institute of Brazilian Architects).[2] Bardi quickly re-established her practice in Brazil, a country which had a profound effect on her creative thinking. She and her husband co-founded the influential art magazine Habitat.[2] The magazine's title referenced Bardi's conceptualization of the ideal interior as a "habitat" designed to maximize human potential.

In 1947, Assis Chateaubriand invited Pietro Maria Bardi to establish and run a Museum of Art. São Paulo was chosen as the location despite Bo Bardi’s preference for Rio de Janeiro. MASP (the São Paulo Museum of Art) was established on October 2, with temporary offices on the second floor of the headquarters of the Diários Associados on Rua Sete de Abril. Bo Bardi designed the conversion of the building into a museum. She also designed the new headquarters for the Diários Associados on Rua Álvaro de Carvalho, São Paulo, and designed jewelry using Brazilian gemstones.

In 1948, the Studio d’Arte Palma was established on the 18th floor of a building by Polish architect Lucjan Korngold (N˚ 66 Praça Bráulio Gomes, São Paulo), bringing Pietro Maria Bardi, Bo Bardi, Giancarlo Palanti (until 1951) and Valeria Piacentini Cirell (responsible for the antiquarian section) together.[2]

Bo Bardi became a naturalized Brazilian citizen in 1951, the same year she completed her first built work, her own "Glass House" in the new neighborhood of Morumbi.[7] Italian rationalism shaped this first work, but because she was immersed in Brazilian culture, her creative thinking began to become more expressive.

In 1955 Bo Bardi became a lecturer for the Architecture and Urbanism Faculty at the University of São Paulo.[2] She wrote and submitted the manuscript, "Contribuição Propedêutica ao Ensino da Teoria da Arquitetura" (Propaedeutic Contribution to the Teaching of the Theory of Architecture) to the school in 1957, hoping to win a permanent position there.[8]

In 1977 Bo Bardi designed the Pompéia Factory.[5]

In 1989, at the age of 74, Bo Bardi was honored with the first exhibition of her work at the University of São Paulo.[9]

Bo Bardi also created jewelry, costume, and set designs.[5]

Bo Bardi died at the Casa de Vidro on 20 March 1992.[2] When she died she left designs for a new São Paulo City Hall and a Cultural Centre for Vera Cruz.

The Glass House[edit]

Casa de Vidro

In 1951 Bo Bardi designed the "Casa de Vidro" (“Glass House”) to live with her husband in what was then the remnants of the Mata Atlantica, the original rain forest surrounding São Paulo. The structure is an early example of reinforced concrete in domestic architecture.[5] Located on a 7,000-square-metre plot of land, it was the first residence in the Morumbi neighbourhood.[1] The area is now the wealthy suburb of Morumbi but a more domesticated version of the rain forest has since re-established itself around the house, concealing it from view.

The main part of the house is horizontal between thin reinforced concrete slabs with slender circular columns. The columns are pilotis, which allows the landscape to flow under the building. Inside, the main living area is almost completely open, except for a courtyard that allows the trees in the garden below to grow up into the heart of the house. In the house, there are zones allocated to different functions- a dining room, a library, and a sitting area around the freestanding fireplace- but all are unified by the forest views through the glass. In theory, the glass panels slide open horizontally, but there is no balcony to encourage people to go outside.

The living area is only half of the house. The other half sits on solid ground at the top of the hill, on the north side of the living room. A row of bedrooms face a narrow courtyard, on the other side of which is the blank wall of the staff wing. Only the kitchen crosses the divide - a territory shared by servants and mistress, and equipped with a variety of well-designed labor-saving devices.

The São Paulo Museum of Art[edit]

Bo Bardi's basic design was used for the São Paulo Museum of Art (also known as "MASP") which was built between 1957 and 1968. Her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi, was curator.[7] The Bardis became involved with the Museum after meeting the Brazilian journalist and diplomat Assis Chateaubriand.[4] Chateaubriand, with P.M. Bardi's curatorial insight, acquired a vast collection of art for MASP, including art works by Bosch, Mantegna, Titian and Goya.[4]

In what she coins "Poor Architecture", one divorced from the pretentiousness often associated with cultured intellectuals, Bo Bardi sought to design a museum that embodied a simple form of monumental architecture. Formed from concrete and lacking any sort of finishings, the building is formed from raw and efficient solutions. She intended to create an experience that's unexpected and almost uncomfortable, even putting the technical data of each painting on the back of the glass panel from which it is hung.

Solar do Unhão[edit]

Solar do Unhão is Salvador’s main cultural center. It was founded by Lina Bo Bardi after an invitation by the governor of Bahia to direct a new art museum in the North East of Brazil.[10] Bo Bardi wanted this museum to show primitive art from the North East of Brazil, as well as the practical nature of their designs. The design of the museum reflects the culture in Salvador, but also the practicality and beauty of the region.[10] Solar do Unhão used to be a sugar mill and was named after the 17th century Brazilian high court judge, Pedro Unhão Castelo Branco.[11] Bo Bardi was commissioned to restore the sugar mill into a museum of modern art. The construction lasted from 1959-1963.[11] The staircase contrasts abstract geometry and traditional materiality. Bo Bardi is paying homage to the 17th century building, but at the same time updating it with modern designs. Her goal was to restore extant buildings in ways that neither pandered to nostalgia nor ignored context. To do this, she left the colonial exterior intact and added the modern staircase. Solar do Unhão reflects Bo Bardi's belief that a museum should also be a place for education. When the museum was first built it held many classes that educated the locals in art and history. Bo Bardi believed that a museum should not be a mausoleum of the past and should instead be an active site of knowledge.

Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia[edit]

Lina Bo Bardi, SESC Pompeia, 1982

In 1982, Bo Bardi finished construction on Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia (now called the SESC Pompéia).[6] The building had initially housed a drum factory and Bo Bardi was tasked with turning it into a community center. SESC Pompéia was built after a 20-year military dictatorship in Brazil that created architecture that did not mirror the Brazilian culture.[10] SESC Pompéia is thought to be a new architectural language controlled by Brazilian culture. SESC is a non-governmental linked to national business federation, created in the 1940s to provide employees with health services and cultural activities.[12] Due to the military dictatorship, Bo Bardi had been ostracized by a conventional architectural outlook. SESC Pompéia sent a shockwave through São Paulo. In 1982 the first stage of the complex was revealed. Bo Bardi had stripped away the plaster and then sandblasted the walls in order to find the essence of the large building.[6] Her design combined red brick and unconventional concrete towers which were combined by aerial walkways. The building currently houses many activities rooms, including: theatres, gymnasiums, a swimming pool, snack bars, leisure areas, restaurants, galleries, and workshops.[6]

Teatro Oficina[edit]

The Teatro Oficina was designed by Bo Bardi in 1984. She was commissioned to turn a burnt office building in São Paulo into a theatre.[13] The building was designed for the theatre group with the same name whom were an important part of the Tropicalia movement of the late 1960s. Tropicalia strived for change and a way for Brazil to escape its colonial past. They used theater to try and understand their Brazilian heritage. Bo Bardi designed the new space almost completely out of painted scaffolding. The design references the construction of sets in a theatre space. The theatre does not have conventional seats, which leads to bad sight lines. Architectural critiques have stated that this does not take away from the theatre experience but enhances it with intensity. The heavy wooden seats are designed in a circle at center stage and the stage is very narrow. Initially, the theatre was designed for experimental director, Zé Celso, who has said that the idea of the space came to him in an acid trip.The theatre is often used by experimental performers who work around the space. The design of the theatre is meant to make the viewer feel as though they are engaged with the act on the stage.[13]

Furniture design[edit]

In 1948, Bo Bardi founded the Studio de Arte e Arquitetura Palma with Giancarlo Palanti (1906–77) to design economical furniture of pressed wood or plastic manufactured by Pau Brasil Ltda., the fabrication studio they opened, and through which they furnished the São Paulo Museum of Art's first headquarters. In the 1950s, Bardi began designing metal-framed furniture with upholstered seats and backs. Her most famous design is the 1951 upholstered bowl chair on a metal frame.[5] Later designs, such as her 1967 Cadeira Beira de Estrada (Roadside Chair), inspired by the vernacular designs she observed during her travels in the northeast of Brazil, embody an unfussy aesthetic with simplicity of design and reduction and rawness of material. She often used plywood and native Brazilian woods in her designs.[14] Bardi wanted each object to display its own "natural logic."[5]

Sustainable architecture[edit]

Writing on sustainable architecture[edit]

In 1958, Bo Bardi published a 90-page thesis intended as a treatise or manifesto. Titled “Introductory contribution to the teaching of architectural theory” it focused on the relationship between nature, society and architecture. She defined architecture as “an art that must seriously take into account the land in which it takes place” and as “the projection of civilized man in the world.”[6] Bo Bardi believed that “architecture takes inspiration from the nature that governs it and gives it to the materials and the necessary elements to shape it harmoniously.” In the manifesto, she writes about her inspirations: Gaudi’s organic structures and Frank Lloyd Wright’s hemicycle houses. Bo Bardi’s theories are illustrated in her building designs that emphasize the importance of reusing architecture and sustainability.

Example of sustainable buildings[edit]

The Glass House, designed by Bo Bardi for herself and her partner, is built in the Brazilian rainforest. The building works around the environment and even replanted all of the trees that were removed during the construction of her new home. Bo Bardi is known for recycling old buildings. SESC Pompéia is an example of a building that Bo Bardi designed with recycled materials. She took the old drum factory structure of SESC Pompéia and modernized it without having to completely destroy the factory. Her sustainable architecture is thought to reflect the culture she was living in. In Brazil, she was surrounded by rainforest, and her architecture reflects the importance of nature to the Brazilian people.[citation needed]

Many famous architects, such as Isaac Julien and Norman Foster, have cited Lina Bo Bardi as inspiration for their sustainable designs.[7][6]


In 1990, the Instituto Lina Bo Bardi e P.M. Bardi was established to promote the study of Brazilian culture and architecture.[15]

Over the past years, numerous artists and architects including Gilbert & George, Cildo Meireles, Isaac Julien, Cristina Iglesias, Norman Foster, Olafur Eliasson, and Adrián Villar Rojas have created works in homage to Lina Bo Bardi.[1] SANAA architect Kazuyo Sejima put her at the center of her Venice Architecture Biennale in 2009.[1] Her work was the subject of a 2012 exhibition at the British Council in London.[16] In 2013, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist mounted the exhibition “The Insides are on the Outside”, set at the Casa de Vidro and at SESC Pompeia. Gilbert & George spent a day at the Glass House as living sculptures, documenting the results with postcards to be distributed to visitors.[1]

In 2013 the British Council, in collaboration with the Instituto Lina Bo Bardi e P.M. Bardi, created a fellowship called the Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship for UK architects to travel and work in Brazil.[17]

In 2014, a Google Doodle commemorated her 100th birthday.[18][dead link]

In 2015, The Guardian elected Lina Bo Bardi's Teatro Oficina (1991) as the best theatre in the world.[19]

Selected architectural projects[edit]

  • Casa de Vidro (The Glass House), 1951: Bo Bardi's residence[20][21]
  • Bardi's Bowl, 1951: Chair[22]
  • Solar do Unhão, 1959: sugar mill converted to a craft museum in Bahia
  • Museu de Arte de São Paulo (São Paulo Museum of Art), 1968
  • Caipiras, Capiaus: Pau a Pique (Exhibition), 1984[23][24]
  • Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia (Pompéia Factory Leisure Centre), 1986
  • Teatro Oficina, 1991: variable space composed of repurposed materials that dissolved the distinctions between actor and audience, stage and backstage

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Charlotte Burns (August 1, 2011), Lina Bo Bardi, the artist’s architect The Art Newspaper.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Timeline - Lina Bo Bardi", Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  3. ^ "AA School of Architecture - Exhibitions". Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  4. ^ a b c d da Costa Meyer, Esther. "After the Flood", Harvard Design Magazine, Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g design, R. "Lina Bo Bardi". R & Company. R & Company. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Zeuler Lima. "Preservation as Conservation: The Work of Lina Bo Bardi", Columbia University School of Architecture, Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  7. ^ a b c "About: Lina Bo Bardi", Architectuul, Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  8. ^ Veikos, Cathrine (2013). Lina Bo Bardi: The Theory of Architectural Practice. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor& Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-68913-7.
  9. ^ "Lina Bo Bardi and the Architecture of Everyday Culture", Places Journal, Retrieved 05 April 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Macartney, Hillary (2013). "Lina Bo Bardi: Three Essays on Design and Folk Arts in Brazil". West 86th.
  11. ^ a b Felippe, Hernandez (2010). Beyond Modernist Masters: Contemporary Art in Latin America. Birkhauser Press.
  12. ^ Moore, Rowan (2012). "Lina Bo Bardie". Architectural Review. 232.
  13. ^ a b Moore, Rowan (2015). "The 10 Best Theatres". The Guardian.
  14. ^ Collection, Design. "Artist's Works". R & Company. R & Company. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  15. ^ [1], Instituto Bardi, Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  16. ^ Rowan Moore (September 9, 2012), Lina Bo Bardi: buildings shaped by love The Guardian.
  17. ^ "Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship", British Council, Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  18. ^ Google celebra centenário de Lina Bo Bardi[dead link]
  19. ^ The 10 best theatres
  20. ^ Clement, Paul (September 14, 2013). "Lina Bo Bardi's Personal Brand of Modernism". Metropolis. Retrieved September 14, 2013.
  21. ^ "Lina Bo Bardi's Personal Brand of Modernism - Metropolis". Metropolis. 2013-09-14. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  22. ^ "Graham Foundation > Exhibitions > Lina Bo Bardi: Together". Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  23. ^ "The motley life and uncertain legacy of Lina Bo Bardi". Archinect. Retrieved 2018-09-18.
  24. ^ "Graham Foundation > Exhibitions > Lina Bo Bardi: Together". Retrieved 2018-09-18.

External links[edit]