Lina Bo Bardi
She built for the people – In Brazil the Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi made an amazing career.
After the horrors of the Second World War, Brazil’s tropical and cheerful architecture seemed like a promise to European architects. Nowhere else in the southern hemisphere had the international style been more passionately welcomed than in Brazil. This will also have captivated Lina Bo Bardi when she landed in Rio with her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi, shortly after the war.
Achillina Bo, was born in Rome on December 5th 1914. She completed her architectural training in Rome, whose school of architecture was at that time completely dominated by the fascist Newclassicism of Marcello Piacentini. But her final thesis on a child care center showed that in her eyes, architecture had to do with social commitment rather than with political representation. That is why in 1940 she “escaped” to Milan after graduation, where there was a somewhat more liberal climate, still partly characterized by modern rationalism. There, the talented draftswoman worked as an illustrator of fashion magazines, took over an unpaid position with the architekt Gio Ponti and worked together with Carlo Pagani for the architecture magazines “Domus” and “Lo Stile” published by Ponti.
After the war, Bo, together with Pagani and the art historian Bruno Zevi, published a progressive cultural journal in which Bo dealt with new design and modern art. Through this she met the art critic and gallery owner Pietro Maria Bardi, with whom she left for Brazil after their marriage in 1946.
The industrialist and collector Assis Chateaubriand commissioned Pietro Bardi to assemble a collection for the planned Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), and Lina Bo Bardi could redesign an old building for the MASP, which was opened in 1947.
Casa de Vidro
Shortly afterwards, she realized her first house for herself and her husband in São Paulo: the transparent Casa de Vidro (glass box), resting on the top of the valley on overhanging pillars, in which influences of Italian rationalism and the glass architecture of Mies van der Rohes as well as the elegant forms of Oscar Niemeyers villas can be seen. When she recognized the problems of glasshouses in the damp warmer climate, she decided on the cheerful architecture of tropical modernism and turned to a more traditional, more natural architecture.
Her next building, the Casa Cirell, built in São Paulo in 1958, was designed as a brickkubus with folkloristic decorations and a surrounding porch-like portico supported by raw tree trunks.
At the luxurious Villa Chame-Chame (1964) in Salvador de Bahia, she turned the façade into a vertical garden and strived for a reconciliation of nature and modern architecture.
This was also her concern with the new construction of the MASP, which was planned in 1957, but only opened in 1968. On the deeper valley side the event and administrative floors are covered with hanging gardens. The almost 80-meter-long and 40-meter-wide exhibition wing hangs eight meters over a weather-protected place on Avenida Paulista. In this way she does not only give a powerful and muscular response to the feminine curves of a Niemeyer, Costa or Reidy, but also creates a public exterior between Trianon Park and the suburbs, which gives the monumental construction of the lying skyscraper a social note.
Since her encounter with the Afro-Frazilian folk art of the Northeast Bo Barde was pulled towards Salvador de Bahia. There, during the MASP-planning, she accepted the invitation as head of the Museu de Arte Moderna. First she used the foyer of the Teatro Castro Alves for her exhibitions. Later, in 1963, she transforms the historic Solar-do-Unhão assembly into an alternative-looking art museum where she also creates room for the promotion of the local arts and crafts.
In 1981 she created a visionary city planning project, which involved the creation of a large park in São Paulo’s center zone Anhangabaú. As a common denominator of all her activities one can see Lina Bo Bardis tireless efforts to reconcile the architectural and artistic form with the needs of the people using it through «arquitetura pobre» (poor architecture).
She was as a fighter for the revival of the historical city of Salvador, which was once as dangerous as it was neglected. The new mayor, Mário Kertész, gave her free hand in 1986. In the vicinity of the Pelourinho Square, she restored several key buildings and activated them with cultural centers, restaurants and exhibition rooms. In this way she preserved the lively atmosphere of the old town. But in the end this couldn’t prevent the picturesque Pelourinho of gradually becoming a tourist paradise.
A convincing architecture emerged from her architectural and social point of view. She built for ordinary people and theres places became meeting points in the urban jungle. She was able to implement her ideas in São Paulo, where she transformed the former Pompéia factory into a culture and sports center.
She was committed to the cultural urban scene of São Paulo. In 1989 she transformed the Teatro Oficina in the Bela Vista district into a street-like theater with a central stage corridor and visitor stands to the side.
Her last major project was the City Hall of São Paulo. She proposed the preservation of the playful historical building and aded a boomerang-shaped longhouse whose façade towards the public square should be constructed as a green plant wall.
But her surprising death on March 20th 1992 prevented the realization of this design.