Lina Bò Bardi was born in Rome, Italy, in 1914 and died in São Paolo, Brazil, in 1992. She was among the most prolific women architects of the 20th century. She was also a noted designer of furniture, jewelry, staging and installations, as well as an architectural writer and editor. Bò Bardi emerged at an early age as strong willed and unconventional and was one of a handful of women to study in the College of Architecture at Rome University in the late 1930s. Her graduation project revealed her nonconformist bent. The project was in a modern style and was at odds with the historicism of her teachers Marcello Piacentini and Gustavo Giovannoni; it was a largescale maternity hospital for unwed mothers, and was an unusual choice of topic in the family-oriented society of prewar Italy.
On graduation, Bò Bardi left for Milan and worked for the modernist architect and designer Gio Ponti. Ponti was the director of the Triennale of Milan and of the architecture and design magazine Domus, both major platforms for Italian modern architecture and industrial design. At the same time, Bò Bardi, at the age of 24, opened her own onewoman architectural office, supporting herself as an illustrator for Stile, a woman’s fashion magazine. In 1943 when Italy went to war, at the age of 25, she accepted the position of codirector of Do mus and was also a member of the Italian resistance. After the war, in 1946, she founded the famous A, Cultu ra della Vita with Bruno Zevi, and married the art critic Pietro Bardi. Because she had been a wartime supporter of Benito Mussolini, Bò Bardi would have had a difficult professional life in Italy. Hence, the couple left for Brazil in 1947, and jointly founded the celebrated art magazine Habitat. Bò Bardi, then 29, again opened an architectural firm, and remained in active practice until the end of her life.
Bò Bardi’s architecture is characterized by its often-daring, concrete construction engineered in pursuit of Miesian-inspired universal spaces. The Glass House (1951), which she designed for herself and Bardi just outside São Paolo, juts out from the top of a steeply inclined site and is screened by the surrounding tropical forest. It is an early example of the use of reinforced concrete and glass for a domestic building. Despite its formidable weight, it achieves an effect of airy lightness using just seven slender columns that support the structure. Her scheme for the Taba Guaianases Building, commissioned for the media conglomerate Diarios Associados in São Paolo (1951, never completed), represented yet another technical feat. The main issue in the scheme was technical: how to place a building of 1,500 apartments on top of a large theater with 1,500 seats, remaining free of columns. She collaborated on the structural engineering with the famed Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. One of her most famous buildings, the Museum of São Paulo (1957–68), is a 70-meter-long glazed structure, suspended from two prestressed longitudinal concrete beams on the roof, resting on four pillars with a clear span under it. The exhibition hall thus created is an immense universal space, unencumbered by structural elements; the immense resulting space under the building (named the Belvedere because of the view it affords over São Paolo) became one of the most popular public places in the city. With its use of concrete construction and search for universal space, it recalls her uncompleted Museum on the Seashore (1951) in São Paolo. Bò Bardi’s second most famous project, the Pompéia Factory (1977) in São Paolo, converted an abandoned steeldrum factory into a cultural and recreational center. She qualified this low-cost project as Arquitetura Povera, inspired by the art movement in Italy during the 1960s, called Arte Povera (literally, poor art). Located in a 19th-century industrial complex, it exploits rather than rejects the gritty realism of the site. The two concrete high-rise structures that she added to the complex are reminiscent of silos, bunkers, or containers, with a series of seven prestressed-concrete walkways linking them. It contains a swimming pool, gymnasium, studios for arts and crafts, a dance hall, and a theater for 1,200 spectators, a library, a restaurant, and exhibition halls.
Bò Bardi also built or designed many small domestic buildings in a critical regionalist spirit, incorporating tropical vegetation into the concrete construction in novel ways: her Chame-Chame House (1958) in Bahia preserves a Jaca tree at the center of the design and, as in her home for Valeria P.Cirell (1958) in São Paolo, combines stones, ceramic chips, and plants in the wall slabs creating vertical garden walls. She was also involved in many renovation projects: Solar do Unhao (1963) in Bahia, the Historical Center of Bahia (1986), the House of Benin (1987) in Bahia, and Misericórdia Slope (1987) in Bahia. Moreover, she designed furniture; the most famous example is a classic of postwar furniture design, a chair called “Bardi’s Bowl” (1951). Much like her early buildings, it is an exercise in structural thinking. In the form of a mobile hemispherical bowl, it rests on a light steel structure made up of a circular ring supported on four thin legs.
Bò Bardi’s last project was for the conversion of the old Palace of Industries of São Paolo into the new City Hall (1992).
5 December 1914 Born in Rome;
1940 Graduated from the School of Architecture, University of Rome ;
1941–43 Worked in the studio of Gio Ponti, Milan ;
1941–43 editor, Domus magazine, Milan ;
1942 Married Pietro Maria Bardi ;
1947 emigrated to Brazil ;
1947 Assisted with the interior design of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Brazil ;
from 1947 director, Estúdio de Arte Palma, São Paulo ;
1948–51 with husband and architect Giancarlo Palanti, founded the Studio de Arte Palma, São Paulo. Organized the first industrial design course in Brazil ;
1949–53 editor, Habitat magazine, São Paulo ;
1952 naturalized in Brazil ;
1954–55 professor, University of São Paulo ;
29 March 1992 Died in São Paulo .
Bò Bardi, Lina, Lina Bò Bardi, edited by Marcelo Carvalho Ferraz, São Paulo: Empresa das Artes, 1993; 2nd edition, São Paulo: Instituto Lina Bò e P.M.Bardi, 1996
Bruand, Yves, L’architectu re contemporaine au Brésil, Paris: Université de Paris IV, 1971
“Terapia Intensiva, Casa do Benin,” Arquitetura e Urbanismo (June/ July 1988) “Registro de Uma Idéia, Centro Cultural de Belem,” Arquitetura e Urbanismo (October/November 1988) “Lina Bò Bardi” (with others), Projeto (May 1991) “Uma aula de Arquiteturas,” Projeto (January/February 1992)