An environmental and social approach in Brazil’s modern architecture: the work of Lina Bo Bardi

Steffen Lehmann

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The architecture of Brazil, which has recently been in the focus with major events (World Cup and Olympics) holds a particular place in Latin America's architecture and is known for its bold modernism. One of the most remarkable Brazilian architects in the 20th Century was Italian émigré Lina Bo Bardi (born Rome 1914-died São Paulo 1992).

This article first looks at the regional diversity in modern Brazilian architecture and then at the ways in which Bo Bardi's sustainable and socially-conscious design is informed by regionalism. Regions are defined through their local materials, tectonics and particular typologies, and the architectural character defining regional spaces, in turn, shapes, retains and enhances social identity. It is timely to reassess the diverse work of Bo Bardi within Latin-America's modernism. Arriving in Brazil in 1946, Bo Bardi was, as well as an architect, a furniture designer, urbanist, political activist, writer and curator.

Previous studies have sought to identify the architects and theorists involved in the making of the modern cultural identity of Brazil, and the mechanisms that created such identity, from Lucio Costa to Oscar Niemeyer. Bo Bardi's work marks the beginning of sustainable design within Brazilian modern architecture; especially the adaptive re-use projects in Salvador, Bahia, identify the beginning of a new approach to heritage and urban renewal.

Therefore, in this article I ask: what exactly is the contribution and role of the work of Bo Bardi in Brazilian modernism? And: discussing regional identity in the Brazilian context, how is such local character expressed?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-185
JournalCity, Culture and Society
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Identity
  • Brazilian modernism
  • Socially-engaged architecture
  • Urban renewal
  • Adaptive re-use
  • Cultural heritage
  • Critical and dynamic regionalism


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