lina bo bardi
Architect Lina Bo Bardi. Photo: Disclosure
lina bo bardi
Architect Lina Bo Bardi. Photo: Disclosure

Aauthor of famous projects such as the São Paulo Art Museum (MASP), Sesc Pompeia, Teatro Oficina (alongside Edson Elito) and Casa de Vidro in São Paulo, the renovation of Solar do Unhão (currently MAMBA), Casa do Benin and Coaty's restaurant in Salvador, Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) has just been announced the big winner of the Golden Lion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale. The award comes to crown the growing recognition of Lina's work, which took place more intensely after her death than in her years of acting.

Lina was also a designer (she created classic pieces such as the Bardi's Bowl, the tripod chair and the Girafinha chair), curator of exhibitions, a great draftsman and creator of innovative exhibition projects (hers are the MASP glass easels). More than that, she was an original and radical thinker, who founded magazines and wrote texts throughout her life. The prize in Venice was recommended by curator Hashim Sarkis and later approved by the Board of Directors.

lina bo bardi
Sesc Pompeia, Sao Paulo. Architect Lina Bo Bardi. Photo: Disclosure [Marcelo Ferraz Collection]

In a text published by the Bienal, Sarkis states: “If there is an architect who most adequately incorporates the theme of the Biennale Architettura 2021, this architect is Lina Bo Bardi. Her career as a designer, editor, curator and activist reminds us of the architect's role as an organizer and, more importantly, as a builder of collective visions. Lina Bo Bardi also exemplifies the architect's perseverance in difficult times, whether wars, political conflicts or migration, and her ability to remain creative, generous and optimistic throughout the process. […] Above all, it is its thriving buildings that stand out in terms of design and the way they unite architecture, nature, life and community. In her hands, architecture truly becomes a social art that summons people.”

Despite being born in Rome (Italy) and arriving in Brazil only in 1946, the architect chose the South American country as her homeland. As she herself wrote: “I naturalized Brazilian. When we are born, we don't choose anything, we are born by chance. I wasn't born here, I chose this place to live. That's why Brazil is my country twice, and I feel like a citizen of all cities, from Cariri to the Triângulo Mineiro, to cities in the interior and on the border”. Despite this passion and dedication, she did not stop experiencing a series of adversities and defeats in her Brazilian trajectory, contrary to what is imagined today, in times of glorification of her work and figure.

lina bo bardi
The MASP in Lina's drawing. Photo: reproduction

In an article published on the page Other words by this reporter who writes here, in 2014 (Lina’s centenary), some of the reasons for these clashes were raised: “And if it is difficult to accurately explain the reasons for so many adversities – which include the most obvious facts of being a woman in a society chauvinist, being a “foreigner” in times of nationalism or even being married to a controversial subject, such as Pietro Maria Bardi – there is something remarkable about the architect that relates to most of her failures and successes: Lina did not follow patterns, models ready-to-wear and fads, he never chose the easy paths and did not hesitate to experiment, subvert and go against hegemonic discourses in politics or culture. Without fitting in – even within modernism or the left – she made architecture her weapon for transforming the world into a more egalitarian and 'human' place. She annoyed and for that she paid prices, but she left, in the end, a valuable legacy for architecture and for the country”.

Lina built without pre-defined formal rules, which is why she never fit into any architectural school like the one in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. This was not something free, but part of a conception that the architect must understand the social and human contexts of each place in order to design. For Lina, each case was different, and architecture should have the human being as its protagonist, not space, as she once said.

Two other excerpts from the article in Other Words help to exemplify his thinking. In the words of the architect André Vainer, his collaborator for many years, “Lina represents a type of architecture that has a very strong backing with reality, which is rare nowadays. She always worked from ideas that were not about architecture, but about human relationships, society, justice between men and behavior”. For Zeuler Lima, professor at Washington University in Saint Louis (USA) and author of a book on the architect: “Lina had great idealism. And this is different from utopia, because it was an idealism of thinking not about the impossible, but about the possible. To think about a better future not abstractly, but in what exists, in the here and now. She was an extremely generous person with architecture, with the idea that architecture has a purpose and that it has to be social, human”, he concludes.

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