Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) was an Italian architect whose highly diverse and important work remains largely unknown outside of her adopted home of Brazil. This oversight is certainly due to her gender but is compounded by her positioning at the periphery of the West. Although influenced by modernist architecture, her work stands apart from it, having a playfulness and diversity not found in the work of her more famous counterparts. Unlike them Bo Bardi insisted on addressing the socio-political context of her work and rejected their grand gestures. Her oeuvre does not have a particular style and although she has built two large cultural projects, much of her work dealt with poorer communities and historic preservation. Even her heritage work is shot through with social concern: the case she made for the restoration was not about the preservation of significant historic architecture, but the 'preservation of the city's popular soul.' Her work is characterized by the celebration of the everyday and the ordinary, an interest that carried through from her buildings to her work as a furniture and jewellery designer, on film and theatre sets, as well as a curator and journalist.
She designed her most famous project, the Museum of Art of São Paulo, without resort to standard architectural drawing preferring instead an informal style that combined watercolours, collage and a creative way of drawing that brought the designs to life, always inhabiting her drawings with people and plants. Her other maincivic building, the SESC leisure centre in Sao Paolo, is a testament to her desire to create democratic spaces. A conversion of an old factory, she did not try to hide the building's origins, as it spoke of its location in a working class area of Brazil. Bo Bardi's design for the SESC leisure centre created a space that combined the ambitions of both the Pompidou Centre as a free and open cultural centre and of the Barbican Centre in London as a cultural landscape.
Her work was enriched by her enthusiastic involvement in the everyday and cultural life of Brazil, she was an activist, ran a popular cultural centre which was closed down by the government, and also taught and wrote about architecture and the arts.
"A Female Role Model from Brazil: Lina Bo Bardi, Architect",
Gender and the Built Environment Database,
(accessed August 19, 2009,).
"Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi," http://www.institutobardi.com.br/eng/instituto/instituto/historia.html (accessed August 19, 2009,).
Oliveira, Olivia de, Subtle Substances of the Architecture of Lina Bo Bardi. 1st edn (Barcelona: Gustavo Gili, 2006).
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