Lina Bo Bardi
By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
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Architect Lina Bo Bardi, born Achillina Bo in Rome in 1914, made an indelible mark on mid-century Brazilian architecture and design after emigrating there following the destruction of her office in Milan during World War II.

Before starting her own firm in Milan, she had worked with Gio Ponti, who later remarked that she was “earning a place in modern architecture.” Bo Bardi and her husband, Italian art dealer and curator Pietro Maria Bardi, were members of the Communist party and found a safe haven in Brazil, which Bo Bardi called “an unimaginable country, where everything was possible.” The couple was integral in the establishment of the São Paolo Museum of Art (1968), which Bo Bardi designed with four bright-red exterior columns supporting the concrete-and-glass building suspended aboveground. Bo Bardi, who died in 1992, also designed the couple’s residence, a modern villa above São Paulo called the Glass House, now part of the Lina Bo and P.M. Bardi Institute. Though still somewhat overlooked by the modern design cognoscenti, Bo Bardi is revered by many modernists for both her architecture and bold furniture designs.

The architect with her side chair designs, year unknown. Photo courtesy Espasso.

The architect with her side chair designs, year unknown. Photo courtesy Espasso.

To see images of her work, please visit the slideshow.

Bo Bardi’s best-known building, the concrete-and-glass Art Museum of São Paulo, supported only by its exterior columns and elevated above street level. Bo Bardi noted of the structure, which was built in 1968: “I feel that in the São Paulo Art Museum I eliminated all the cultural snobbery so dearly beloved by the intellectuals (and today’s architects), opting for direct, raw solutions.”

Bo Bardi’s best-known building, the concrete-and-glass Art Museum of São Paulo, supported only by its exterior columns and elevated above street level. Bo Bardi noted of the structure, which was built in 1968: “I feel that in the São Paulo Art Museum I eliminated all the cultural snobbery so dearly beloved by the intellectuals (and today’s architects), opting for direct, raw solutions.”

The Fábrica da Pompéia, a São Paulo cultural center Bo Bardi designed in 1986.

The Fábrica da Pompéia, a São Paulo cultural center Bo Bardi designed in 1986.

A side entrance to Bo Bardi's Fábrica da Pompéia.

A side entrance to Bo Bardi's Fábrica da Pompéia.

The Glass House, shortly after it was built in 1951 as the home of Bo Bardi and her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi. “The Glass House has to be ranked as a major theme of modern architecture,” wrote Gio Ponti of the building in 1953. Image courtesy Acervo Instituto.

The Glass House, shortly after it was built in 1951 as the home of Bo Bardi and her husband, Pietro Maria Bardi. “The Glass House has to be ranked as a major theme of modern architecture,” wrote Gio Ponti of the building in 1953. Image courtesy Acervo Instituto.

The Glass House as it appears today, with the forest grown around it, as Bo Bardi had anticipated—she insisted that the displaced vegetation be replanted just after the house was finished. Photo courtesy Espasso.

The Glass House as it appears today, with the forest grown around it, as Bo Bardi had anticipated—she insisted that the displaced vegetation be replanted just after the house was finished. Photo courtesy Espasso.

Bo Bardi designed the Tripé, or Tripod, armchair, around 1948. Made of painted tubular metal and hand-stitched leather and possessing the same design principles as the hammock, several examples existed throughout the Glass House. Photo courtesy Espasso.

Bo Bardi designed the Tripé, or Tripod, armchair, around 1948. Made of painted tubular metal and hand-stitched leather and possessing the same design principles as the hammock, several examples existed throughout the Glass House. Photo courtesy Espasso.

The living area of the Glass House held many of Bo Bardi’s furniture designs, including the desk chair and dining chairs. Both shared the similar elements of corsetlike back stitching, a motif still replicated today. Photo courtesy Espasso.

The living area of the Glass House held many of Bo Bardi’s furniture designs, including the desk chair and dining chairs. Both shared the similar elements of corsetlike back stitching, a motif still replicated today. Photo courtesy Espasso.

The leather sling and ball motif of the dining chairs were repeated in other Bo Bardi designs. Photo courtesy Espasso.

The leather sling and ball motif of the dining chairs were repeated in other Bo Bardi designs. Photo courtesy Espasso.

Her folding side chair, against the floor-to-ceiling window wall of the Glass House. Photo courtesy Espasso.

Her folding side chair, against the floor-to-ceiling window wall of the Glass House. Photo courtesy Espasso.

A pair of chairs designed by Bo Bardi out of peroba rosa wood in 1951, currently part of Noho Modern’s collection. “She is the single most important architect and designer behind Oscar Niemeyer,” says Thomas Hayes, co-owner of Noho Modern, a gallery specializing in modern and contemporary Brazilian design. “Her work hasn’t even begun to be appreciated at the level it deserves.”

A pair of chairs designed by Bo Bardi out of peroba rosa wood in 1951, currently part of Noho Modern’s collection. “She is the single most important architect and designer behind Oscar Niemeyer,” says Thomas Hayes, co-owner of Noho Modern, a gallery specializing in modern and contemporary Brazilian design. “Her work hasn’t even begun to be appreciated at the level it deserves.”

Bo Bardi’s Bowl chair, designed in 1951 of iron and aluminum, with orange fabric.

Bo Bardi’s Bowl chair, designed in 1951 of iron and aluminum, with orange fabric.

Bo Bardi crafted her Giraffe table and chair from various hardwoods with contrasting dowels.

Bo Bardi crafted her Giraffe table and chair from various hardwoods with contrasting dowels.

The folding Frei Egídio chair, which Bo Bardi designed with the architects Marcelo Ferraz and Marcelo Suzuki, was modeled after the lines of a 15th-century Franciscan chair. Shown is a contemporary version, manufactured in 2005.

The folding Frei Egídio chair, which Bo Bardi designed with the architects Marcelo Ferraz and Marcelo Suzuki, was modeled after the lines of a 15th-century Franciscan chair. Shown is a contemporary version, manufactured in 2005.

Erika Heet

@erikaheet

Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.

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