Dan Graham

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Factory Community Center, Sao Paulo, Lina Bo Bardi.
Carlos Brillembourg

Lina Bo Bardi

The Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi creates, in her Factory Community Center, located on the low-income edge of São Paulo, a recreational community center. The center, set in a no longer used “brutalist” style concrete factory, was a familiar landmark for the community users. Bo Bardi’s design deconstructs the old factory building, cutting holes into one of the building’s now glass-less windows while creating in an adjacent building an artificial lake landscape, which employs both natural and industrial materials.

Neighborhood users can enjoy a community-oriented, recreational space while also entertaining memories of their old workspace. Instead of constructing a modernist, utopian imposition of a new clean community center, the new center recollects derelict factory buildings into a new mixture consisting of pleasurable cafés, restaurants, sports facilities, and a library. In this artificially reconfigured setting, a brutalist concrete bridge traverses the space between two factory buildings. This walkway, as well as the open holes of the other building, is open to fresh air and light.


The cut-open windows are organic forms busted out of the concrete, emitting light and fresh air as opposed to conventional glass windows. These are closed off with large sliding grill panels painted bright and playful colors. Bo Bardi’s crude cuts into the preexisting material fabric of the building to create voids and light shafts prefigure the later work of Gordon Matta-Clark. While Matta-Clark’s cuts are basically forms of agitprop, Bo Bardi’s openings are functional.

In one building, a yin/yang configured reflective pool on the yin side creates an artificial landscape by using natural large-sized pebbles, partly submerged under a thin layer of water. The floor on the nonwater yang side gives the appearance of being a hard and slick industrial surface.

Vilanova Artigas

While Bo Bardi’s factory expressed a post–World War II communitarian socialism, Vilanova Artigas’ São Paulo University architecture building evinces a democratic, Marxist-collectivist feeling. The building’s interior open core features progressively stacked, set back terraces; each floor level allows students (and instructors) to view each other. This nonhierarchical scheme breaks open the traditional closed-off classroom cells associated with university architecture. The building recalls Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin building (1903), the first twentieth-century atrium-form office building. In Artigas’ University Building, continuously slopped ramps connect all the floor levels.

Artigas also designed various lower middle- and middle-class apartment buildings, which characteristically incorporate ground level changes and often disparately link interconnected floors in bricolage-like configurations. These plans also incorporate a circulation system of open-air terrace balconies to move people to differing levels of the building. Typical of Brazilian architecture of this period, the exterior facades of Artigas’ apartment buildings often utilize bright, primary colors, which relate to other surrounding public facades, functioning as popular urbanistic decorative signs.

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