Italian born and Brazilian made, Lina Bo Bardi’s work sits at the intersection of the social, cultural and political. Born in Rome in 1914, Bo Bardi later studied at the Rome College of Architecture, graduating at the age of 25. Though most well known for her work in architecture, her design skills spanned many more mediums including illustration, jewellery, furniture, costume, and set design.
Bo Bardi set up her own architectural practice in Milan in 1942, but a lack of work due to the outbreak of war across the continent forced her to take up work as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines soon after. As a result of aerial bombing, her office was destroyed and this event led her to join both the Italian communist party and the resistance movement. Consequently, life for Bo Bardi became difficult in post-war Italy, ultimately influencing her career trajectory, as she travelled to South America with her husband and eventually settled in Brazil.
Expressing concern about contemporary architectural education and criticism, and generally resisting needless traditionalism in the field saw Bo Bardi in consistent opposition with her contemporaries throughout her career. She answered traditional architecture with the idea of ‘Arquitetura Povera’ or ‘poor architecture’ the core tenet of which was simplicity - and within this, she sought to embrace cultural influences and materials of her new Brazilian home. Bo Bardi’s approach to architecture meant her designs often utilised existing buildings in order to restore, preserve and ultimately repurpose them while regenerating the space around them, a further challenge to tradition. It would seem that Brazil helped Bo Bardi develop her work that was once influenced by Italian rationalism.
Bo Bardi took architecture and blended it with the social and the cultural, prioritising the people that utilised and existed in the spaces she created. Whether she was designing museums and art galleries or simply creating leisure and recreational spaces for communal use, her buildings followed a theme - they were all culturally led and provided gathering places for individuals to become community. How people would use a space was central to how Bo Bardi designed it and she felt that her work was not complete until it was used, and subsequently this use of space was able to break down the barriers between people by creating spaces for community.
Buy the book Lina Bo Bardi 100 here
Story by Francesca Butler.
Francesca is a London based writer.