Lina Bo Bardi saw Architecture as spaces created by our occupation rather than inert spaces that we occupy. She understood the complex reciprocal relationship between people and space, culture and architecture. Through her work, architecture can be understood as a time based art that is inseparable from the way people perceive and use it. Bo Bardi’s architecture works like a conversation.
Bo Bardi’s architecture achieves this by placing human activity at its centre, with an awareness of the cyclic relationship between the two. We can see this philosophy embodied in projects such as SECS Pompeia, which transformed an industrial drum factory into a recreational and social leisure centre through utilising the street as a vessel for public life placed at its heart.
Bo Bardi’s Architecture is not static; it reveals to us architecture as a dynamic process of interactions and relationships. Bo Bardi shows us that architecture is conversational – it is in constant dialogue with its users, inhabitants and surroundings. To Bo Bardi architecture relies on our participation and the unique way we construct our experience by giving meaning as an observer - “Until man enters a building, climbs steps, and takes possession of the space in a ‘human adventure’, which develops over time, architecture does not exist.”
This illustrates the architecture as a unique creative act that not only happens as the result of the architect’s design but also as cognitive acts fundamental to our perception and subjective experience of space. In this ‘human adventure’ as Bo Bardi calls it, architecture can be seen as an event or series of events, existing in space like a continual piece of music or perpetual performance, reliant upon performers and protagonists.
Fundamental to our perception of the world, are these cognitive acts which ‘re’-present our sensory information into our subjective experience of architecture. These acts are iterative and recursive, allowing us to build a continuous picture of the world. It is like the process of design itself, I its looping, repetitive and iterative nature; it is a cyclic process with new iterations being informed from lessons learnt from the last.
When we experience a building the recursive processes that created it through design continue in our individual acts of perception and interactions, from which we create our subjective experience. Designing no longer resides solely with the architect, but is something that we all do continually in our conscious awareness. Our cognitive and perceptive faculties perpetually construct our reality moment to moment. Each new experience is informed from past experience as we imbue meaning from memory into the present, thus ‘designing’ our reality to fit with our belief systems, cultural background, preferences and psychological makeup. Cyberneticians in the 1960s, notably Gordon Pask, likened our construction of reality to a conversation between two people.
This conversation can be seen at the heart of all Bo Bardi’s work. Her buildings are designed with the understanding that they are reliant upon the animation and activation of human participation and interaction. As such they provoke the imagination and encourage social interaction.
'Linear time is a Western invention; time is not linear, it is a marvellous tangle where at any moment, points can be selected and solutions invented without beginning or end.’ Lina Bo Bardi
Bo Bardi’s buildings conversational abilities stem from her philosophical approach to time and space. Her philosophy removes organisational hierarchy ‘such that routes, transitional spaces, juxtapositions of scale, materials and found objects, and a fusion of plant life with built form, all become very important - drawing people around a building as if in a sensual dance, engaging the whole body and all its senses.’ De Oliveira (2006).
Bo Bardi’s people centric work emerges in contrast to the ‘utopian optimism’ of the time, embodied in the work of Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer who used flamboyant and evocative forms to proclaim a better future. Her buildings offered spaces that listened before they spoke, incorporating the vernacular and the local, seeking to use and celebrate what already exists and is available. Rather than purely seeking form, Bo Bardi’s work utilises human activity as a dynamic building material that can transform the sensation and experience of the space. The physical materials she employs are shaped by the local human activity; such as the wooden stair at Solar do Unhão, which was built using techniques adapted from the making of ox carts (Moore 2012). Physically her buildings are a wealth of tactile experiences and interactions.
As well as conversational elements, Bardi creates dialogues with the natural elements; The Bardi home for example was designed to allow the natural environment to flourish in and around the home over time. The SESC Pompéia celebrates the tropical rainfall like a jubilant waterpark with its playful pebble dashed water channels.
From the liberating span of the MASP, to the open and convivial streets of SESC Pompeia, these buildings act as catalysts for culture in Brazil. They create environments, which intensify the already existing social activities and communication of the city. By treating her buildings as time based, not static spaces, she creates spaces for interpretation, indeterminacy, and the unexpected – she creates places of improvisation.
It is no coincidence that Bardi’s work evokes such a reaction, as it reflects the rich improvising culture that exists within Brasil. Improvising arts flourish in Brasil, largely in part as a result of Brasil’s dark history of slavery and colonialism. Now popular art forms such as Capoeira (a martial art disguised as a dance) and Samba (a popular musical form) were born from the traditions carried over from the West African slaves. These traditions rely on improvisation at their heart, when an individual places his own value or interpretation on a common rhythm in music or in dance that expression contributes to unify a whole. This experience is fundamental to building communities as well as an important means to transmute suffering. Improvising arts are forms of creative communication and are conversational systems in the same way as Bo Bardi’s buildings.
'Linear time is a Western invention; time is not linear, it is a marvellous tangle where at any moment, points can be selected and solutions invented without beginning or end.’
Lina Bo Bardi