Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi has been named the winner of the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, which will open to the public on Saturday May 22nd 2021.

The late Modernist architect was nominated for the honour by Hashim Sarkis, curator of the Biennale Architettura 2021, and approved by the Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia.

Explaining his motivation for recommending Bo Bardi for the prestigious honour, Sarkis said, “If there is one architect who embodies most fittingly the theme of the Biennale Architettura 2021, it is Lina Bo Bardi. Her career as a designer, editor, curator, and activist reminds us of the role of the architect as convener and importantly, as the builder of collective visions. Lina Bo Bardi also exemplifies the perseverance of the architect in difficult times whether wars, political strife, or immigration, and her ability to remain creative, generous, and optimistic throughout.”

“Above all, it is her powerful buildings that stand out in their design and in the way that they bring architecture, nature, living, and community together. In her hands, architecture becomes truly a convening social art.

“The Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement is a long overdue recognition for an illustrious career straddling between Italy and Brazil, for re-enlivening the role of the architect as an enabler of society, and for a woman who simply represents the architect at her best,” he added.

Born in Rome in 1914, Bo Bardi graduated in architecture in 1939 and moved to Milan to begin a career that would set her on the path to become one of the most illustrious women architects of the 20th century. Moving to Brazil with her husband Pietro Maria Bardi in 1947, she designed the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (São Paulo Museum) that would become one of the most iconic buildings of Brazilian Paulista architecture.

Her home in São Paulo, the Casa de Vidro, a Modernist glass box built on a hill immersed in the tropical forest, is one of her most famous projects. Notable works also include the SESC–Fábrica da Pompéia, a giant community, recreational, cultural and sports centre and the Teatro Oficina.

Since her death in 1992, Bo Bardi has received wide recognition through the Instituto Bardi, which was founded to archive and promote her work.

Thanking La Biennale di Venezia for the recognition, Instituto Bardi said, “The phenomenal life and work of Lina Bo Bardi has long addressed the central question of this year’s International Architecture Exhibition: How will we live together? Sadly, as has been true for public spaces the world over, the global pandemic has undermined the use of the iconic public places she designed in Brazil that have been serving communities and citizens for decades. In that sense, the receipt of this prize reaffirms the responsibility that Instituto Bardi bears to transmit the importance of the Bardi couple’s lifelong work and archival materials to the public, thereby provoking meaningful discourse about the social role of the built environment.”

“The 2021 Special Golden Lion resounds with the impact of the architect’s own words: Lina Bo Bardi’s life and oeuvre are not of the past, but still very much of the present. In fact, they seem more relevant today than ever before as markers of both architectural and human heritage.”

The acknowledgment to Bo Bardi will be celebrated on Saturday May 22nd 2021 during the inauguration ceremony for the Biennale Architettura 2021.

Image: Instituto Bardi