In 1947, the Italian-born architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi fled the ruins of Europe after the Second World War and resettled in São Paulo. She built her home, a glass-walled box floating atop slender columns, on a mostly barren slope in what was then far from the city center.
Today, Casa de Vidro, as it’s now known, hovers above a lush, terraced tropical garden in one of the toniest neighborhoods of South America’s largest metropolis. On May 24, an intimate invited group gathered there to inaugurate the exhibition “The Square,” to celebrate Bottega Veneta’s tenth anniversary in Brazil. It was also the kickstart and capstone to São Paulo Fashion Week, which filled event spaces across the city.
Previous installments of “The Square”, in Dubai and Tokyo, convened local artists for exhibitions, screenings, and new performances in custom-built environments. The São Paulo edition, by contrast, leaned heavily on the legacy of Bo Bardi. The architect, who would spend the rest of her life in Brazil, became the country’s main proponent of a modernist style that incorporated vernacular design elements from the region, which she often applied to socially conscious projects like public housing or museums. Her own home, Casa De Vidro, is now a museum.
Organized by Rio de Janeiro-based curator and photographer Mari Stockler, “The Square” featured a diverse range of contemporary and historical Brazilian artists whom Bo Bardi might plausibly have collected were she alive today. Their work was subtly incorporated with Bo Bardi’s collection of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian art permanently installed at Casa de Vidro. It was difficult at times to tell which works were new and which belonged to the architect. Some of these inclusions were so seamless that a first-time visitor to the house might not have noticed an exhibition was on display. “This is intentional,” Stockler said.
Visitors were invited to follow “pathways” through the house organized around three themes – geometry and spirituality, tropicalia, and music – although these were impossible to glean without the aid of maps in an accompanying four-volume catalog, and most attendees wandered freely, sipping cocktails as they browsed.
Under a prominent first-floor overhang, a painting by Ibã Huni Kuin, a master of the Huni Kuin people in the Brazilian Amazon, was displayed near a carved wooden canoe Bo Bardi acquired from the region. Its colorful jungle flora and fauna, exposed to the open air, recalled the vibrant Huni Kuin paintings currently on display in a survey a few miles away at the Museum of Art São Paulo, the monumental museum also of Bo Bardi’s design. The work bore a mild resemblance to (2021), a painting by the young Brazilian artist Andy Villela; its semi-abstract rendering of hanging potted plants and a blue-tiled floor, meanwhile, recalled the house interior upstairs.
There, Luiz Zerbini’s untitled 2009 composition of color-coded projector slides resembled modernist works by Lygia Clark and Lygia Pape, but in a medium Bo Bardi often used in her architectural practice. Fernanda Gomes’s (2016), a pair of white-gold spoons connected by a length of string, sat inconspicuously on the blue marble dining table, where they seemed like a natural appendage for the silver Art Nouveau punch bowl that rests permanently at its center.
Whimsical, animal-shaped assemblages of sprouting tubers by Cristiano Leinhardt (, 2014) perched humorously on the pewter kitchen countertops, like foodstuffs returning to nature. Other works Bo Bardi would have almost certainly collected had they been accessible to her during her lifetime: a painting by the late artist and environmental activist Hélio Melo, , offers a dreamy, surreal view of dawn in the rainforest very much in line with the architect’s imagination.
Throughout the living room, books on modernist and indigenous Brazilian art lay stacked or open on original furniture of Bo Bardi’s design, or beside replicas where visitors could sit and read them. “When you see photographs of the house from Lina’s time, there are books everywhere,” Stockler said. “I wanted to make sure the house felt lived-in.”
This approach extended to the architect’s drafting table, where a construction helmet with the logo for SESC Pompeia – a vast cultural complex Bo Bardi designed for a low-income São Paulo neighborhood – sat alongside poems and works on paper by some of her friends, such as Hélio Oiticica. It was possible to imagine they had been left there when Bo Bardi passed away in 1992.
Bottega Veneta’s interest in Casa de Vidro is easy to understand. Like Bo Bardi, the Italian fashion house is known for its subtle and finely crafted detail. But apart from the beautifully printed catalogue – nearly cubic in size, to befit the show’s title – and a few woven leather bags that some of the attendees chose to carry, Bottega’s presence was relatively minimal at the event.
At Casa de Vidro, the focus was on the artists, who mingled for hours, talking in the dappled autumn sun. Despite the glamor of the looks and the occasion, it seemed at times that Bo Bardi herself – a famously generous host – had called them there.
“Casa de Vidro is one of my favorite places,” said creative director Matthieu Blazy, who was on hand for the event. “With ‘The Square São Paulo,’ we recognize how Lina’s ideas and aesthetics resonate to this day, always reminding us of the transformative power of design and culture.”