Zeuler Rocha Mello de Almeida Lima
Foreword by Barry Bergdoll
Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, London, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Architecture
8.5 x 10.5 inches, hardcover, 256 pages, 81 color and 95 black-and-white illustrations
ISBN: 9780300154269
Suggested Retail Price: $65.00

From the Publisher. Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992), one of the most important architects working in Latin America in the 20th century, was remarkably prolific and intriguingly idiosyncratic. A participant in the efforts to reshape Italian culture in her youth, Bo Bardi immigrated to Brazil with her husband in 1946. In Brazil, her practice evolved within the social and cultural realities of her adopted country. While she continued to work with industrial materials like concrete and glass, she added popular building materials and naturalistic forms to her design palette, striving to create large, multiuse spaces that welcomed public life.

Lina Bo Bardi is the first comprehensive study of Bo Bardi’s career and showcases author Zeuler Lima’s extensive archival work in Italy and Brazil. The leading authority on Bo Bardi, Lima frames the architect’s activities on two continents and in five cities. The book examines how considerations of ethics, politics, and social inclusiveness influenced Bo Bardi’s intellectual engagement with modern architecture and provides an authoritative guide to her experimental, ephemeral, and iconic works of design.

Zeuler R. M. de A. Lima is an architect and associate professor of history, theory, and design at the School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Barry Bergdoll is professor of architectural history in the department of art history and archaeology at Columbia University and the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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John Hill

Today Lina Bo Bardi is considered one of the most important 20th-century Brazilian architects—with Lucia Costa, Oscar Niemeyer, and Paulo Mendes da Rocha—yet her buildings and other creations have received relatively little exposure, with the result that she is not as common a name outside the country she emigrated to in 1946 at the age of 32. This thrift can be attributed to her late blooming as an architect (her first building, a house for her and her husband, Pietro Bardi, was completed two years before she turned 40; and her first major commission, MASP, wasn’t realized until 1968, 14 years later) and the small number of built works (14 are discussed, modeled, and mapped in this book) before her death in 1992. But I’d wager she hasn’t received the proper attention until now because, while she is remembered for two important pieces of architecture (MASP-Museu de Arte de São Paulo and SESC Pompeia Leisure Center, also in São Paulo), she was more than just an architect; she wrote, taught, edited and laid out magazines, curated and designed exhibitions, and created some of the most beautiful chairs of the last 60 years.

Assembling her story and accomplishments into a book could not have been a simple task, but architect and Washington University professor Zeuler R.M. de A. Lima has astutely navigated the complexity of Bo Bardi’s life and crafted a deeply researched yet highly pleasurable book. Lima’s historical narrative—neither straight history nor monograph—responds appropriately to Bo Bardi’s multitasking nature, intertwining her actions and creations through short, chronological chapters that gracefully pull the reader along on her voyage from Italy to Brazil, and the frustrations and developments that shaped her particular position in her adopted country.

Admittedly there is a palpable unease in Bo Bardi’s architecture, as if the late start and sporadic commissions did not give her enough chances to develop a consistent formal language. Yet already in Italy, where she wrote and edited publications more than anything else, she had adopted a stance that favored the activities of people occupying spaces rather than the form architecture should take (her wonderful drawings of street life express this position particularly well). And because she embraced history and the continuity of culture through construction and other means, her buildings could be vague about time, authorship, and where architecture ends and scenography or exhibition begins. 

Yet Lima discovers and describes the strands that give meaning to Bo Bardi’s life by, among other things, finding importance in the smallest, and often poetic, details—a particular sentence she wrote or the way a stair tread connected to a stringer. Speaking of details, it’s worth noting the excellent design (by Thumb/Luke Bulman) of Lina Bo Bardi, from the chipboard cover and sturdy, matte paper to the page layouts and the dictionary-like index tabs marking the short chapters that trace Bo Bardi’s multifaceted life.

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