In May I was beyond happy: I visited Brazil for the very first time. A long time dream came true. And Brazil is not only amazing for its rich and lush nature, but also for its sophisticated design scene. There is so much to tell about Brazilian design – but let me start first with this highlight: the Casa de Vidro of Italo-Brazilian architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi.
After learning a little bit about Lina Bo Bardi I could relate first and foremost about one thing: When Lina arrived the first time to Brazil in 1946 she felt a special energy in this country and literally fell in love. I felt pretty much the same! But let’s go back to Lina: She was born in Italy in 1914. As part of the Italian resistance movement she found life in post-war Italy difficult and traveled with her husband to Brazil in 1946. They were welcomed by the Institute of Brazilian Architects and Lina felt quickly at home in Brazil and felt not only intrigued by the country, but also profoundly inspired in her creative thinking.
Lina Bo Bardi left an immortal mark on the Brazilian design and architecture scene. One of her most iconic architectural works is her own home – the Casa de Vidro in Sao Paulo. Completed in 1951, the Casa de Vidro was Bo Bardi’s first built project and a fantastic example of her experimental and expressive modernist approach in architecture.
The Casa de Vidro must not be seen as solely a building. Instead, this house, built on a slope, should be considered as an architectural unit that combines the landscape, the plants, the life of its tenants and the building into a visual masterpiece. The house is built on stilts and lined with floor-to-ceiling windows. It overlooks a little ‘jungle’ to all sides creating a living green canopy seen from every side of the building. Lina paid due attention to the local flora at the site and even constructed the house around taller and mature plants thus creating a patio.
The house conveys a light and airy atmosphere. The harmonies of light and geometry are striking, and the house almost feels weightless as if floating on the green hill. At the same time it feels deeply grounded in its tropical surrounding. Lina Bo Bardi shared the Casa de Vidro with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi, a respected and well-known critic, art historian and collector. Lina Bo Bardi, on the other hand, was not only an architect but also a renown designer, writer and editor. She designed exceptional furniture (my favorite it her Bola de Latao chair) as well as jewelry. Together they loved to collect an eclectic mix of art which can be seen in the Casa de Vidro. So this house is even more than architecture – it is actually a timeless representation of the lives of Lina Bo and Pietro Maria Bardi.
Lina Bo Bardi later designed some of the most exceptional and salient architectural complexes such as the MASP, the Museum of Art of Sao Paulo, as well as the Sesc Pompeia, a sports and cultural center adapted from an industrial building. What makes Lina’s building stand out is there socially-minded and politically-charged approaches (remember her participation in Italy’s resistance movement).
If you ever visit Sao Paulo, do not miss to tour the Casa de Vidro. Guided tours are offered several times a day (in English or Portuguese) and you will not only learn a lot about the building itself and Lina’s professional career. You will also get to know Lina Bo Bardi a bit more – you will learn about her sometimes difficult personality with Italian temper, a strong will and lots of passion. An experience that will not leave you untouched. Chances are you will feel like Lina when she stepped on Brazilian soil in 1946 – fascinated and immersed in the country’s diverse and rich culture. I definitely felt that way!
Photography by Jules Villbrandt