Lina Bo Bardi: Architect for the ages

Lina Bo Bardi: Architect for the ages
Art workshops in São Paulo's SESC Pompeia Leisure Center occupy former industrial sheds. / © Nelson Kon

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Lina bo bardi: architect for the ages
Art workshops in São Paulo’s SESC Pompeia Leisure Center occupy former industrial sheds. / © Nelson Kon

With the centenary of her birth this year, Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992) is finally receiving the overdue international recognition she deserves. A European traveling exhibition, two new books in English, and the reissue of her 1951 Bowl Chair signal a growing swell of appreciation of Bo Bardi—or Lina, as she is affectionately known in Brazil—and a deeper understanding of her professional life. Her remarkable and versatile career included stints as an editor, graphic designer, scenographer, curator, educator, and— foremost—as an astonishing architect with a varied output. Her work drew on influences as diverse as industrial São Paulo’s Eurocentric art milieu and Salvador’s rich Portuguese colonial and African heritage in northeastern Brazil.

Along with the customary attention that accompanies a centenary, several events have converged to make a revisit of Bo Bardi’s legacy timely and significant. The Brazilian economic boom in the first decade of this century has attracted international starchitects to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for the first time since Le Corbusier traveled to Rio to work on the Ministry of Education and Health building in 1936. This, coupled with Brazil’s preparations for the World Cup to be played in 12 cities next month and the Olympic Games in 2016, has precipitated urban redevelopment and infrastructure investment and focused international interest on the rich legacy of Brazilian Modernism (and the country’s emerging generation of architects) to a degree not seen since the inauguration of Brasília in 1960. Finally, the death of Oscar Niemeyer at the age of 104 in 2012 has permitted other strands of Brazilian architecture to emerge from his long shadow, which dominated the country’s design culture for almost three generations.


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