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The Biennale di Venezia has awarded the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam to the Italian-born Brazilian architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi.

Among her major projects is her home Casa de Vidro, a Modernist glass box built on the hills of São Paulo; SESC – Factory, an old metal barrel factory transformed in a cultural and sports center; and Teatro Oficina, which challenges the spatial hierarchies of bourgeois theater by erasing the boundaries between performers and audience.

In all Lina Bo Bardi’s works, architecture becomes a tool to community service. Mindful about the traditions, Lina Bo Bardi combined the ancestral know-how with the production methods of her time giving rise to generous buildings that combine nature and living together.

Lina Bo Bardi on the steps of the Glass House, 1952, Sao Paolo, Brazil. Photo by Francisco Albuquerque. Photo credit IB Archives.

Achillina Bo, known as Lina, was an Italian-born Brazilian architect, designer, artist and critic. Born in Rome in 1914, she was one of the few women to graduate with a degree in architecture from the Università La Sapienza di Roma in 1939. She moved to Milan where she wrote for architectural and lifestyle magazines and co-directed Giò Ponti’s magazine Domus with Carlo Pagani. With the support of Bruno Zevi, she created the magazine A-Attualità, Architettura, Abitazione, Arte.

In 1943, the architectural firm “Studio Bo e Pagani” was destroyed by a bombing, which led Lina Bo Bardi to join the resistance. After the Second World War, she became part of a group of architects and urban planners engaged in the reconstruction of Italy. In 1947, she moved permanently to Brazil with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi (critic, art historian, journalist and gallery owner) who had been invited to take the direction the Museu de Arte de São Paulo - MASP.

Folding chair designed in 1947 by Lina Bo Bardi for the MASP auditorium.

An “architecture of freedom”, that’s how John Cage, composer and friend of Lina Bo Bardi and her husband, called the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. The museum is suspended 8 meters above the ground thanks to two 74-meter-long concrete beams. Inside, artworks are hung on glass walls, in completely open spaces to ensure a maximum visual and spatial continuity.

The museum will become one of the most emblematic symbols of Brazilian Paulista architecture. With its open spaces, mobile walls and transparent artwork holders, the museum is conceived as a place for everyone, surrounded by spaces that encourage social interaction. “I consider the museum not as a place to exhibit artworks or art objects, but as a school” she would say later, at the opening Museum of Modern Art in Salvador de Bahia, which she directed from 1959 to 1963. The Museum was a matter of making art education accessible to all and highlight the value of history in building the present.

Front view of the MASP, Sao Paolo, Brazil.
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Lina Bo Bardi

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