Golden Lion to Lina Bo Bardi

John Hill
9. March 2021
 SESC Pompéia, São Paulo (Photo: paulisson miura/Wikimedia Commons)

La Biennale di Venezia has announced that the famous "Italian architect, designer, scenographer, artist and critic naturalized as a Brazilian citizen" will be given a Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam when the Biennale opens in May.

The Special Golden Lion to Lina Bo Bardi (1914–1992) was announced yesterday on the Biennale's website. It comes about six months after the Biennale gave out a round of posthumous Golden Lions, one of them to Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti, who died in March 2020 at the age of 92 after contracting the coronavirus. While the earlier awards were selected by the board of directors of La Biennale di Venezia and announced on the occasion of the exhibition Le muse inquiete (The Disquieted Muses), the award to Bo Bardi was recommended by Hashim Sarkis, curator of this year's Biennale, and approved by the board.

Why Bo Bardi, and why now? Sarkis says in the announcement, "If there is one architect who embodies most fittingly the theme of the Biennale Architettura 2021, it is Lina Bo Bardi." The theme Sarkis developed for the Biennale is "How will we live together?" Itself a question, the theme asserts, in part: "In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together: together as human beings who, despite our increasing individuality, yearn to connect with one another and with other species across digital and real space [...] and together as a planet facing crises that require global action for us to continue living at all." Although written in 2019, now the theme rings prescient to the global situation caused by the coronavirus.

To Sarkis, Bo Bardi "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." Furthermore, "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." Sarkis highlights the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), which bridges a plaza, as "exemplary in its ability to create a public space for the whole city." He calls the Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Bo Bardi "a long overdue recognition for an illustrious career straddling between Italy and Brazil ... a woman who simply  represents the architect at her best."

The acknowledgment to Lina Bo Bardi will be celebrated on Saturday May 22 during the inauguration ceremony for the Biennale Architettura 2021. It should be noted that Gregotti was not the first architect to receive a posthumous Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement; Japanese architect Kazuo Shinohara (1925–2006) was given one in 2010, upon the recommendation of Kazuyo Sejima, curator of that year's Biennale, with the theme "People meet in architecture." Coincidentally, Bo Bardi's work was presented at the 2010 Biennale in a dedicated room of the Central Pavilion in the Giardini.


São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) (Photo: Wilfredor/Wikimedia Commons)

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