Lina in writing

Elyeser Szturm, from the Heavens series


Commentary on a collection of texts by the architect Lina Bo Bardi

The texts gathered in Lina in writing make it possible to reflect on Lina Bo Bardi's work as an architect, and, above all, to collect clues about the direct and vital relationship between this work and the country she chose to live in. There would be little benefit in trying to seek rigorous thought, original reflections. Unlike the other architects of her generation, Lina spares sentences, is direct and does not try to please. For her, there is no theory, only intellectual resources to face and transform things.

At first glance, the book can be included in the somewhat nostalgic vogue that drives publications on the words and works of important Brazilian architects of the XNUMXth century. And they do not always escape a certain sweetening that seeks to rescue solutions that are alienated from their strong historical content (although almost always coated with historiographical rigor, academic research, etc.).

But in this case, the plan can backfire. The sequence of texts, decade by decade, does not allow for an exegesis, nor does it form an articulated “theoretical” basis. Phrases and concepts appear that are tips of conceptual icebergs that the author mobilizes, in precise syntheses that transit through current themes (of architecture and social thought), always renewed at each phase.

His texts, the best, are a sea full of these icebergs, which make up a coherent path. Coherent not because it is rectilinear, but because it is moving, responding to the vicissitudes of the country's recent history, never separated from the global orchestration. Lina builds a consistent architectural and cultural response that transforms itself to maintain its power: in calm, turbid or turbulent waters. And such a response is, yes, original and of the best caliber, considering the years of our social modernization and its crisis.

Coming from Italy in 1946, disillusioned with the setbacks of the new political coalition, she brought with her the debates that were beginning to emerge in that country, and which would trigger major changes in European architectural culture in the 1950s. organicism (via Bruno Zevi) and Italian neo-realism. They are more naive texts of hers (written in Italy), which demonstrate how the disciple interpreted these new positions.

In summary: the new articulation of architecture with the landscape and the city, and the approximation of the modern repertoire with popular traditions, both in terms of building and furniture. The common enemy: the new modern academicism, heir to rationalist formalism. The politicized young woman extended this criticism to all “idealism”, in her intransigent defense of the strong connection between thought and the concrete forms of human experience.

Hold on: this expansion of architectural thought adds a cultural dimension programmatically obliterated by earlier functionalist radicalism. A new semantics had to be invented based on new technologies and popular craft forms (at that moment, in the European cultural context).

Nothing could be more out of place, at first glance, from the emerging modern Brazilian architecture, which at that moment was already flying with its own wings, after learning the Corbusian lesson. But two factors were able to build a new aesthetic articulation: the common mismatch between Italy and Brazil in relation to advanced capitalism, and the relationship between the vanguard and the popular culture of Brazilian modernism. Of course, both aspects are circumstantial and can be reconstructed according to circumstances. We are interested, quickly, in this second.

The link with a cultural tradition was established, in a line that passes through Mário de Andrade and Lúcio Costa. In architecture, from the beginning of the 1930s to the 1950s (with the Brasília project), we witnessed a progressive simplification of “tradition”: from the sobriety of civil architecture with a Portuguese character, from the resourcefulness of the religious baroque, culminating in the exuberance of the landscape and the bodies.

It is evident that this was not the “popular” claimed by Lina for a new modern realignment. But she makes use of the evoked colonial tradition (when Lúcio Costa approximates the stripped rationality of the colonial house to the Corbusian cell) to initiate a new approach that did not find support among us: the popular culture not of the past, but of the present, in the rural tradition or the poor populations of the cities, mainly in the Northeast.

No idealization or archeology, but anthropological research and contact with a culture that bravely resisted industrial degradation and the cultural industry. Without having managed to transform itself into handicrafts, like Mediterranean European popular culture, Brazilian culture maintained its anti-merchandise genetics and, paradoxically, a vocation for rusticity necessary for a new and modern conception of “humanized” technology.

This position, which evolved from an initial “neorealism” to a synthesis between modernity and primitivism, critically followed the process of Brazilian economic modernization, from the post-war period to the “lost decade” (1980s). A resumption of the synthesis of the avant-garde at the beginning of the century, re-elaborated from the experience of Nazi-fascism and the crisis of “Reason”. In other words, it is averse to any “metaphysical” idealization. This perspective reaches its culmination in the experience in Bahia, where he helped to form a generation that would transform Brazilian culture in the 1960s.

But it is constantly renewed, with great political coherence, from the consequences of the 1964 coup, the closure of the regime in the 1970s and the re-democratization. Without being able to indicate, in the texts of the book, with the necessary accuracy, the movement of his position constantly updated Regarding class struggle in a local version (and always inserted in the world order), we can turn to the most crucial moment (until then) of this process: the project for the SESC Fábrica Pompéia, inaugurated in 1982.

The aggressiveness of the cultural and social devastation promoted by the capitalist reorganization in neoliberal patterns, the national crisis of political and economic character, the apparent disorganization of the “popular”, culminated in a new strategy of architecture and project, resulting from the previous bets: the apprehension of an urban and working-class (cultural) sense, technical (design and construction based on working-class knowledge) and a “post-industrial” moment.

His most important project, only possible based on these “radical” assumptions, indicated a path that Brazilian architecture could not follow, nor would it ever achieve, after the “dismantling”. With an idealized past, future and “popular”, modern architectural culture in Brazil could not capture its own socio-urban reality, having historically elaborated its forms in reverse.

In the late 1970s, Lina was betting on a certain autonomy for the masses, who were reorganizing themselves at that time, mainly in the city of São Paulo. Her gamble was correct, even though we partially know its developments today.

*Luiz Recaman He is a professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at USP. Author, among other books, of Vilanova Artigas: Housing and the city in Brazilian modernization (Unicamp).



Lina Bo Bardi. Lina in writing. Organization: Silvana Rubino and Marina Grinover. São Paulo, Cosac Naify, 208 pages.


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