Visual Project

Lina Bo Bardi, with text by the JCAF editorial team
Lina Bo Bardi on Roadside Chair. © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photographer unrecorded

LINA BO BARDI (1914–1992)

In 1946, architect Lina Bo Bardi and her husband Pietro Bardi, an Italian art dealer and journalist, left post-war Italy and settled in São Paulo. Shortly after, Lina was chosen as the lead architect for Brazil’s first museum of modern art: Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP). The project took several years, during which Lina built her own residential house (Casa de Vidro) and other buildings throughout the country. In those years Lina wrote a weekly column for a local newspaper, started her own magazine Habitat, experimented with new materials, worked in theatre and film, and was the director of the Museu de Arte Moderno de Bahia (MAM-BA) in Salvador de Bahia. There, she engaged with the Afro-Brazilian community, including local artists and musicians such as Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethânia, Gilberto Gil, Glauber Rocha and Mario Clavo, among others, who were central to Bahia’s avant-garde movement.

Caetano Veloso once said about Lina: “More than the others who participated in this rebirth of scholar culture at the end of the fifties and beginning of the sixties, Dona Lina was the one who could better see the strength of the popular creativity of the city [Salvador de Bahia] and of the region. And she was clear that it wasn’t as folklore or documentation of a curious, exotic and fun style, but as real cultural strength.”1

In 1976, Bo Bardi visited an old steel-drum factory in Pompéia, an industrial neighbourhood of São Paulo. She was fascinated and immediately had the vision of a popular centre for the Serviço Social do Comércio (SESC) after seeing how people from the neighbourhood engaged with the abandoned space: there were barbecues, theatre plays for kids and many other “activations” of the space. She decided to conserve the original structure and added features for the public’s enjoyment: tables where people could read or play chess and cards, spaces for sunbathing and napping and a theatre that could host up to 1,200 people. At SESC Pompéia, Bo Bardi also created spaces for local artists and craftsmen to work, resulting in a space full of “public domesticity” (Noemi Blager). In a time dominated by masculine figures in architecture, Bo Bardi was particularly interested in the combination of local crafts with international design. For her, modernist ideas had to be flexible and adapt to Brazilian popular culture and autochthonous materials. Today, Bo Bardi’s most important legacy is the social dimension of each of her constructions, as her projects were often focused on making people’s livelihoods better, always in a sustainable equilibrium with their surroundings.

Photo Ioana Marinescu, for Lina Bo Bardi: Together, curated by Noemi Blager. © Ioana Marinescu. Courtesy Noemi Blager

The modernist Casa de Vidro (Glass House) (1951) was Lina Bo Bardi’s first architectural project in Brazil. Lina and her husband Pietro Maria Bardi used the house as their residence for forty years and it is now the headquarters of the Instituto Bardi.

Photo Ioana Marinescu, for Lina Bo Bardi: Together curated by Noemi Blager. © Ioana Marinescu. Courtesy Noemi Blager

The Glass House was the first building constructed in the Morumbi neighborhood, located in the south of São Paulo, one of the most elevated areas of the city. Surrounded by vegetation typical of the Atlantic rainforest, the house was designed to incorporate the natural environment as one of its main features.

The living room of the Glass House is an open plan design and was populated with Bo Bardi’s collection of objects, works of art and furniture she had designed.

Photo Ioana Marinescu, for Lina Bo Bardi: Together, curated by Noemi Blager. © Ioana Marinescu. Courtesy Noemi Blager

Lina Bo Bardi dedicated her career in Brazil to developing an architectural language that she termed “autochthonous” or “poor” forms, inspired by the vernacular and historical architecture in the north-east of Brazil. Bo Bardi recognised the value of indigenous aesthetic traditions and was also guided by social and ethical considerations in her designs.

Lina Bo Bardi, Cadeira de Beira de Estrada Perspectiva (Sketch for Roadside Chair) (1967). © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photo Henrique Luz

Roadside Chair (1967) can be constructed anywhere by anyone as it is made out of wood and rope. For Bo Bardi it represented a clear manifestation of the importance of accessibility and improvisation in design.

Lina Bo Bardi, Roadside Chair (1967). © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photographer unrecorded

Bo Bardi’s designs often aimed at democratising and humanising the encounter between people and artworks or buildings. In Bo Bardi’s first sketches of the Glass Easel, the notion of liberating viewers from preconceived notions about the artworks displayed was present in her political gesture of placing labels at the back, enabling different readings of the art.

Lina Bo Bardi, MASP Perspectiva (Sketch for MASP) (1957–68). © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photo Henrique Luz

The glass easels were originally designed by Bo Bardi for the opening of the iconic Museo de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) in 1968, generating a radical change in the museum experience.

Installation view of Lina Bo Bardi, Glass Easels, at MASP, São Paulo (1969). © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photo Hans Gunther Flieg

Inaugurated in 1982, the SESC Pompéia building was previously a barrel factory which Bo Bardi transformed into an extraordinary multi-functional building designed for the local community on the west side of São Paulo.

Solarium of SESC Pompéia, São Paulo. © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photo Rômulo Fialdini

The refurbished building became part of the Social Service of Commerce (SESC) network, hosting a theatre, a solarium and exhibition venues, and offering a wide range of free activities and leisure spaces for the public.

Reading rooms of SESC Pompéia, São Paulo. © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Unknown photographer

In São Paulo, the SESC network extends to over 40 locations embodying a proactive cultural policy, with different venues dedicated to culture, sports, youth development, senior citizens and social tourism.

Interior of SESC Pompéia, São Paulo. © and courtesy Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro. Photo Sérgio Gicovate

Although the activities hosted at SESC Pompéia are primarily for professionals (and their families) working in businesses, tourism and services, members of the broader public are welcome to participate in the extended programming.

Exterior of SESC Pompéia. Photo Camila Picolo, for Lina Bo Bardi: Together curated by Noemi Blager and supported by Arper. © Arper. Courtesy Camila Picolo
Interior of SESC Pompéia. Photo Camila Picolo, for Lina Bo Bardi: Together curated by Noemi Blager and supported by Arper. © Arper. Courtesy Camila Picolo

Lina Bo Bardi once said, “I never disregard the surrealism of the Brazilian people, their inventions, their pleasure in gathering together, dancing, singing. Therefore I dedicated my work at Pompéia to the youngsters, to the children and to the third age: all together.”2

Biography

Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992) was born in Rome. She obtained an architecture degree from the University of Rome in 1939, and shortly thereafter moved to Brazil, where she spent most of her life. Her exhibitions include the Venice Architecture Biennale (2009); Lina Bo Bardi: Habitat, São Paulo Museum of Art (2019); Lina Bo Bardi: Together, organised by the British Council and the Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi Foundation and exhibited in London (2012), Chicago (2015) and São Paulo (2016); and Lina Bo Bardi Dibuja at Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona (2019).


References

  1. Quoted in Michiles, A. (1993). Lina Bo Bardi  [Film] São Paulo: Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi.
  2. Blager, N. (2020 ). Lina Bo Bardi: Together. Treviso: Arper SpA

How to cite this article:
Lina Bo Bardi, with text by the JCAF editorial team (2024), "Visual Project" in JCAF Journal: Interdisciplinary Knowledge from the South No. 1. https://jcafjournal.org.za/visual-project-lina-bo-bardi/. Accessed 25 April 2024.