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Design Icon: Lina Bo Bardi

A free, avant-garde and modern design infuse the work and architecture of icon Lina Bo Bardi. Discover the story of one of the most impressive and influential woman architect of the twentieth century, one of the few who have left their mark in the modern architecture scene.

Portrait of Lina Bo Bardi. Photography by Juan Esteves.
Portrait of Lina Bo Bardi. Photography by Juan Esteves.

Born in Rome as Achillina Bo, and raised in the capital, she graduated in 1939 from “La Sapienza” University and later moved to Milan in 1940, during one of the most difficult moments in the history of the city. Thanks to her curiosity and the driving force of her growing interest, Bo Bardi quickly settles in the fervent Milanese cultural background and meets the undisputed icon of Italian design Gio Ponti and art critic Pietro Maria Bardi, who later became her husband. In those years her visionary culture earned her the position of co-director of important architecture and design magazines such as Domus and Stile, until she founded her own magazine in 1943: A-Attualità, Architettura, Abitazione, Arte.

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Lina Bo Bardi’s story is inextricably interlinked with the issue of war. As a result of the bombing of Milan during the Second World War, in fact, her studio was completely destroyed. Despite the dramatic circumstances, the Bo Bardi couple began an exciting new adventure: Pietro Bardi was hired to found and direct the new Museum of Modern Art of Sao Paulo, in Brazil and Lina was commissioned to design the new headquarters of the institution, on Avenida Paulista.

Architecture and architectural freedom are above all a social issue that must be seen from inside a political structure, not from outside it.

The MASP (Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo) is one of the most surprising buildings of Lina Bo Bardi. It embodies extremely current issues, showing Lina’s visionary thinking. She designed spaces of boundless freedom with colorful accents, an expression of rebellion against military dictatorship that was about to take hold in Brasil. Bo Bardi’s architecture, emblem of free thought, provided one of the first cornerstone of Paulist Architecture.

MASP - Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo designed by Lina Bo Bardi
MASP - Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo designed by Lina Bo Bardi

Another crucial step for her career came in 1951, when she completed her works at “Casa de Vidro”, a private residence built on the edge of the tropical forest on the outskirts of São Paulo: a modernist glass box, suspended in mid-air and completely immersed in the surrounding natural landscape. In this occasion, Lina Bo Bardi designed one of her most famous pieces up to this day: the Bowl Chair, today produced by ​Arper in a limited edition. Its structure and shape are essential, functional and flexible, making it suitable to integrate harmoniously into any environment. This new design approach, where the key element is the human interaction with the object, represented a real revolution for the 50s.

Casa De Vidro designed by Lina Bo Bardi. Photography by Filippo Bamberghi.
Casa De Vidro designed by Lina Bo Bardi. Photography by Filippo Bamberghi.

After founding, with her husband, Habitat magazine, confirming her deep interest in architectural criticism, Bo Bardi spent the years between 1958 and 1964 in Salvador de Bahia, in the northeast of Brazil. During this time, the architect absorbed the Brazilian culture, establishing herself as an icon of local contemporary architecture. In addition to many scenic installations, Lina designed various buildings, including the MAMB, the Museum of Popular Art, the Gregorio de Matos Theater and Casa do Benin. She also completed the recovery plan of the historic city center.

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