Sep 14, 201309:00 AMPoint of View

Lina Bo Bardi’s Personal Modernism

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My personal favorite Bo Bardi project is the cultural and sport center, Sesc-Pompeia, also in Sao Paulo. It was eveloped in phases, starting in 1977 and completed in 1986. Here the architect took a complex program that combined sports, leisure, and cultural activities and was able to fit it all in on a challenging, oddly shaped lot, with several building restrictions. She kept the existing structure of the musical drum factory that occupied the lot and, in what was one of the first re-purposed high profile projects in Brazil, gave it a second act, so to speak. The vast open areas became reading rooms, classrooms, theaters, lounge, and exhibit areas, with an interior creek that helps define the space and makes reference to the existing creek, which was covered for many years and running below the site.

“With this project, Bo Bardi paved the way for the preservation (and thus valuing) of our rich industrial architecture heritage,” says architect Giancarlo Latorraca, who collaborated with her on many projects and today is one of the directors at Sao Paulo’s Museu da Casa Brasileira. “Her sensitive intervention on the factory warehouses, with carefully selected new elements needed for the new functions, enhances the memory of the labor done in the original space,” he adds. That is very much the feeling throughout the complex – one feels the life that was there before. Yet, she then masterfully balances it with the new, adding a brutalist concrete tower that stacks all the sporting facilities like pools and courts.

It may be its location or the free form bright red window openings of the massive structure, in any case the building doesn’t have the weight or the intimidating quality usually associated with brutalist buildings. Quite the contrary, you are curious to see what happens inside. This juxtaposition of the sports tower with the factory is a good example of what Latorraca means when he says that Bo Bardi “tried to define a path for consolidating Brazilian cultural identity as a combination of the intellectual and the popular."

Sep 14, 2013 05:42 pm
 Posted by  SeanAsh

Nice tour of some of her buildings. But how did you miss the SP Museum of Art????

Bo Bardi was one of my favorite architects, similar to late Le Corbusier, but I will hate it if she comes to prominence now not because of the quality of her work but because of this trendy feminism ('personal' modernism: barf) that she would have hated--like qualifying and beginning this story in terms of Denise Scott Brown. This is where the media does the built world no favors, if this becomes another trite story about the heroic female who goes up against the 'omnipresent' male architects. I'd prefer to see it through the lens of the rest of your story: it's just rich, layered, colorful, brazilian architecture.

All the rest is b.s.

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