Lina Bo Bardi
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Lina Bo Bardi saw Architecture as spaces created by our occupation rather than inert spaces that we occupy. She understood the complex reciprocal relationship between people and space, culture and architecture. Through her work, architecture can be understood as a time based art that is inseparable from the way people perceive and use it. Bo Bardi’s architecture works like a conversation.
Bo Bardi’s architecture achieves this by placing human activity at its center, with an awareness of the cyclic relationship between the two. We can see this philosophy embodied in projects such as SESC Pompeia, which transformed an industrial drum factory into a recreational and social leisure center through utilizing the street as a vessel for public life placed at its heart.
Bo Bardi’s Architecture is not static; it reveals to us architecture as a dynamic process of interactions and relationships. Bo Bardi shows us that architecture is conversational – it is in constant dialogue with its users, inhabitants and surroundings. To Bo Bardi architecture relies on our participation and the unique way we construct our experience by giving meaning as an observer - “Until man enters a building, climbs steps, and takes possession of the space in a ‘human adventure’, which develops over time, architecture does not exist.”
Bo Bardi collaborated (until 1943) with architect and designer Giò Ponti on the magazine Lo Stile – nella casa e nell’arredamento. 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 1944-45 Bardi was the Deputy Director of Domus magazine.
In October 1946 Bo Bardi and her husband traveled to South America. Because they had participated in the Italian resistance movement, they had found life in post-war Italy difficult. In Rio, they were received by the IAB (Institute of Brazilian Architects). 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. The magazine's title referenced Bardi's conceptualization of the ideal interior as a "habitat" designed to maximize human potential.
Involving all the various disciplines around architecture—from art to design, from dance to fashion, and from photography to craftsmanship—Habitat’s goal was to define a modern environment, in the broadest sense of the term, as “dignity, morality of life and, consequently, spirituality and culture”, as was set forth in its first editorial. Like a perfect echo of the social and cultural changes then under way in São Paulo from the 1940s on, when that booming industrial metropolis was turned into the country’s economic and cultural capital, the goals of that multidisciplinary magazine also incarnated the thoroughly European enthusiasm of its founders
Dwelling, or the art of “modern inhabitation”, had been a theme dear to Bo Bardi since the years when she worked in Italy with Grazia, Lo Stile and A Cultura della vita. This theme turned out to be especially urgent in a country undergoing tremendous population growth like Brazil, where great social disparities were evident, in the eye of the young immigrant, in the architectural contrast between the large modernistas skyscrapers, already famous all over the world, and the lowly abodes built on piles, housing the most destitute social classes. For Bo Bardi, the observation of this deep social gap heightened the urgent need to intervene, through art and architecture, in order to improve living conditions for the poorest Brazilians and, at the same time, become engaged in the social education of the new middle class, rightly perceived as the real protagonist in the rapid economic and cultural development occurring in the country’s large cities.
In several respects, Habitat undeniably represented the ideal tool kit for the intellectual in a class of her own, whom its first editor was. The magazine’s multi-disciplinarity, as a creative and critical principle, tallied perfectly with the approach of an architect who, having actually built relatively little, found expression in a multi-facetted and eclectic range of activities which was in no way confined to architecture, in the strict sense of the term. In other respects, in the magazine’s very format, as an organized medium and a composite forum for debate, we find that particular feature which Marcel Ferraz identified as essential in the poetics of Lina Bo Bardi: a marriage between rigor and freedom. In Habitat, more than in anything else created by the architect, in fact, the rational discernment making it possible to embrace different periods, disciplines and value systems within a coherent framework was combined in an extremely successful way with the carefree nature of the imagination, rid of prejudice and beyond all forms of dogmatism.
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. Located on a 7,000-square-metre plot of land, it was the first residence in the Morumbi neighborhood. The area is now the wealthy suburb of Morumbi but a more domesticated version of the rainforest has since re-established itself around the house, concealing it from view.
This building was Bo Bardi's first attempt at finding a Brazilian language for the Italian modernism that she had been trained in. She also drew from other American modernist works, such as Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and Case Study House No. 8 by Charles and Ray Eames, both of which were widely publicized at the time. It also could have been influenced by Bernard Rudofsky's courtyard houses featured in the Brazil Builds exposition (1940-1942). However, she wanted to contextualize this modernism into the fabric of Brazil. Rather than copying the local forms, she hoped to incorporate the ideas behind them into the design in a way that was modern, and she celebrated the local environment.
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. The Bardis became involved with the Museum after meeting the Brazilian journalist and diplomat Assis Chateaubriand. 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.
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 pre-stressed concrete without embellishment, the building is formed from raw and efficient solutions. The building features a suspended volume, spanning 74 meters, held aloft by 4 concrete columns connected by two concrete beams running along the length of the building, with 2 floors of gallery above and below the ground floor. The open midsection of the building left the plaza open to Avenida Paulista, São Paulo's main financial and cultural avenue, and left the site unobstructed to the views of the lower-lying parts of the city, which was one of the conditions given by the local legislation when Bo Bardi received the commission for this project.
She intended to create an experience within the art gallery that's unexpected and almost uncomfortable by presenting the artwork in a non-chronological order in the open plan of each floor to create dissonance between the preconceived understanding of order and what is presented. The museum was surrounded by large windows overlooking Sao Paulo, thus limiting the availability of wall surfaces on which to mount exhibitions so Bo Bardi designed free standing glass panels supported on concrete blocks on which the canvases are mounted. This environment provides the visitors with a space in which they wander around the art and become part of the exhibition itself.
The political dimension of her proposals is suggested by the open, transparent, fluid, and permeable picture gallery, which offers multiple possibilities for access and reading, eliminates hierarchies and predetermined paths, and challenges canonical art-historical narratives. The gesture of taking the paintings off the wall and placing them on the easels implies their desacralization, rendering them more familiar to the public. Moreover, the placement of the labels on their backs allows for an initial direct encounter with the work, free from an interpretive framework. In this context, the museum experience becomes more human, plural, and democratic.
In 1982, Bo Bardi finished construction on Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia (now called the SESC Pompéia). 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. 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. 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. These buildings, besides being deprived of all sophisticated details, are marked by strong gestures: connecting the two main blocks through an aerial solution consisting in a disordered waving of vigorous concrete arms; or tearing chunks of concrete from the walls to create irregular openings inspired by prehistoric caverns (functionally justified by the requirement for cross-ventilation for the sports courts) instead of cutting out windows
The architectural language of the new buildings reinforced the manufacturing and industrial heritage of the complex. This language is present in the way the materials were used, and especially in the very scale of the place. Yes, the new buildings disrupt the delicate nature and ‘well-composed’ scale of brick warehouses and tiled roofs, presenting themselves as huge containers or industrial silos; the aerial walkways look like bridges or conveyor-belts that might transport grain or minerals. Everything is there to fulfill its role as an element in a centre for leisure. No one takes notes, no one rationalizes – nor is it necessary to do so – but everyone feels through their five senses the presence of the factory in the architectural solutions. Everyone feels the respect for the history of human labour, which permeated every design decision.
An old disused factory, no longer serving the purpose for which it was designed, is reborn with striking touches. Sometimes violent, as in the concrete towers; sometimes delicate, as in the channels of rainwater running along the central street or in the wooden trellises on the windows. Sometimes with a heavy touch, sometimes light, Lina knew how to act in accordance with the architectural demands and the discourse to be communicated to all who passed, and still pass, through the Centre. After all, architecture is an effective and necessary means of communication.
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. The building was designed for the theatre group with the same name who 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.