Welcome back to #ModernistMondays! At TTC, we are constantly inspired by modernist architects and artists from past and present. To showcase some of our favorites, we launched #ModernistMondays, where we highlight one modernist each month to explore with quick, interesting facts. Italian born Lina Bo Bardi, known for her work in adaptive reuse work in Brazil, is our latest feature.
Achillina “Lina” Bo was born in Rome in 1914, where she was raised to appreciate art from a young age, but her parents were not fully in support of her architecture career. In 1939, she graduated with a degree from The Rome College of Architecture, and after working with illustrator Carlo Pagani for a few years, she joined celebrated Italian designer Giò Ponti as an editor at his magazine, “Lo Stile.”
At age 28, Bo opened her own firm, but due to World War II, could not find work. Instead, she worked as a freelance illustrator for fashion and design magazines until her office was destroyed by a wartime bombing. For one year afterward, she was the Deputy Director of notable design publication “Domus,” and increasingly became involved in the Italian Communist Party, spurred by her anger over the bombing.
In 1946, Bo married art collector Pietro Maria Bardi and the two moved to South America. Bringing her editorial and architectural skills to Brazil, she founded “Habitat” magazine and reopened her architecture studio in the new location. A year later, her husband was tasked with opening the São Paulo Museum of Art, and commissioned Bo Bardi to convert a building into what is now a popular cultural institution, which she redesigned in 1950.
São Paulo Museum of Art (photo from Arquitecturaviva.com)
Fascinated with Brazil’s rainforests, Bo Bardi and her husband decided to live in the remains of a forest outside of São Paulo. She designed a home using thin reinforced concrete slabs with thin circular columns and glass panels for walls. The stilt-like nature of the columns helps the building appear to be floating among the landscape. The unique home was Bo Bardi’s first built work and was nicknamed the “Glass House.”
Now a recognized museum designer, Bo Bardi was selected to helm the Solar do Unhão, an art and culture center in northeast Brazil. After renovating a 17th century sugar mill into an abstract, updated structure, Bo Bardi insisted that the museum hold classes and educational programs, so that it was less of a mausoleum of the past and more of an active place of learning.
Two subsequent projects exhibited Bo Bardi’s ability to transform old, obsolete structures into new, useful ones. Centro de Lazer Fábrica da Pompéia, a former refrigerator factory, became an athletic and performing arts center, reflecting the desires of the community.
A burnt office building became Teatro Oficina, an unorthodox theater where experimental directors staged shows that made use of the whole theater, immersing the audience in the performance.
In 1948, after the first iteration of the São Paulo Museum of Art was completed, Bo Bardi founded the Studio de Arte e Arquitectura Palma with Giancarlo Palanti, a furniture design company, where she notably produced the 1951 upholstered bowl chair.
Bo Bardi moved her studio into a shipping container near the Pompéia site in 1977, where she remained for the rest of her career. Working at Bo Bardi’s studio was said to be a relaxed environment, with no administrative staff and designers often meeting around a fire to discuss their ideas.
Aside from her architecture, illustrations, and furniture, Bo Bardi practiced jewelry and costume design for a 1969 production of “In the Jungle of Cities.”
Lina Bo Bardi passed away in 1992 at the “Glass House,” one of her most recognized works. Her impact on Brazilian architecture and culture remains, from her early magazine illustrations to one of the nation’s most popular museums.
“Lina Lo Bardi,” ArchDaily; “Lina Lo Bardi,” Britannica; “Lina Bo Bardi: buildings shaped by love,” The Guardian; “Lina Lo Bardi,” Wikipedia