October 31, 2021

Who is Lina Bo Bardi?

By 1605 Publishers
Architecture, Inspiration

Famous works: SESC Pompéia (1986), Glass House/Casa de Vidro (1951), MASP/Sao Paulo Museum of Art (1960)

Architects inspired by Lina Bo Bardi: Kazuyo Sejima, Yoshiharu Tsukamoto

Women in architecture

We live in the era of feminism and female empowerment. But how many of us can actually name off the top of our head a famous woman architect, designer, or photographer? Not many. And it's not because there aren't, but because the information about these inspiring women isn't so widespread.

Let's take as an example Lina Bo Bardi (1914 – 1992) an Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect who during her lifetime wasn't accepted among the local Brazilian architects because she was a woman and also a foreigner. Being a prolific architect and designer, she devoted her working life to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design in Brazil.

Lina Bo Bardi architecture

Photos: IB Archive, Sao Paulo, Brazil / SESC Pompéia by Paulisson Miura 


She is recognisable for the unique style of the many architectural illustrations she created over her lifetime. The popularity of her works has increased since 2008, when a 1993 catalogue of her works was republished. A number of her product designs are being revived, and exhibitions such as her 1968 exhibition of glass and concrete easels have been recreated.

Italian rationalism shaped the first work by Lina Bo Bardi - Glass House/Casa de Vidro (1951). However, because the architect was immersed in Brazilian culture, her creative thinking began to become more expressive, as you see in her later works like MASP/Sao Paulo Museum of Art (1960) and SESC Pompéia (1986).

"Linear time is a Western invention, time is not linear, it is a marvellous tangle, where, at any moment, points can be selected and solutions invented, without beginning or end".

Lina Bo Bardi portrait

Lina Bo Bardi's chair designed for MASP, 1948, São Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Diário de São Paulo


Throughout her life, Bardi participated in many exciting projects. She designed private homes (both exteriors and interiors), including her own Sao Paulo home - the Glass House (1951), an early example of the use of reinforced concrete in domestic architecture. The architect also designed modern furniture in plywood and native Brazilian woods, which she admired for their strength, beauty and resilience. And in addition, also showed a big interest in designing jewellery and creating set designs and costumes for experimental film and theatre.

Bardi also designed many public buildings, including office buildings, theatres, churches, and cultural centres such as very famous in Sao Paulo SESC Pompéia. Originally, SESC Pompéia was an old factory. However, when Lina discovered that SESC will serve role of the place with spontaneous activities such as barbecues, painting classes and a puppet theatre, she decided to repair the factory transforming it in a village-like assembly of spaces within, enhanced by a winding waterway and a large hearth. Lina Bo Bardi is also behind the design of the Modern Art Museum in Sao Paulo (1957-68) and she organised and curated many exhibitions.

MASP Sao Paulo Lina Bo BardiMASP, 1968; photo: Arquivo Biblioteca e Centro de Documentação do MASP

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