Projects for public buildings and infrastructure must always ensure the best possible forms of access and connection with the surrounding streets, particularly regarding access routes for pedestrians. However, some architects have managed to overcome the pragmatic aspect of this connection between architecture and the streets, when designing projects that have a strong duty to provide public space, by using this bond as the core of the design concept.
The Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) was amongst those responsible for creating fine examples of this architectural praxis, concerned with its public role, an attitude that is increasingly relevant and coherent in order to promote a democratic, horizontal, conscious and plural urban life. These virtues are especially evident in two projects by the architect in the city of São Paulo, SESC Pompeia and MASP.
One can speculate that the success of the SESC project was predestined by the early history of the building, which was refurbished and renovated by Lina between 1977 and 1982. The old Drum Factory dates directly back to the history of the neighborhood. The architectural project created a dialogue between the old and the new and preserved an important symbolic connection between its spaces and the neighborhood. The main concerns of the new design were organizing the building entrances and creating a path that intersects the lot and connects its surrounding streets, thereby providing a suitable route that appeals to pedestrians and users of SESC. This connection is so well established and vital to the project that it has resulted in the transformation of this passage into a genuine street, used on a daily basis, as an extension of the city's public streets to the interior of the lot. The SESC Pompeia's functional program and arrangement of buildings reinforce this intense and active use of the internal street, which is undoubtedly key to the project's vitality.
On the other hand, the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), built at the former Belvedere Trianon on Paulista Avenue in 1968, provides different kinds of connections between architecture and the street. Its privileged location in the city offers the architecture a unique position, situated on the intersection of Paulista Avenue, the main and most famous avenue of São Paulo, and the tunnels of Nove de Julho, another very important avenue. The site plan had a golden opportunity to tackle the presence of these urban corridors at different levels, and Lina skillfully managed to pull it off.
MASP's free span is powerful because it builds connections to the site at various levels. Visually, it provides a great platform with a very special view of the valley towards Nove de Julho, which reaffirms at all times the importance of the project's site plan. The connection with Paulista Avenue is even more compelling. The free span pulls the sidewalk under the shelter of its large roof and turns itself into an extension of the public road. Furthermore, it becomes an expansion of this path, a surface suitable for welcoming the most diverse urban life activities, from gatherings between friends to crowds of protesters.
Overall, Lina Bo Bardi's concerns in designing public spaces have always considered ways of embracing the city' dynamics, incorporating its fluxes, encouraging the disruption of barriers between inside and outside, and promoting a type of space that reflects the fundamental nature of its program, its commitment to the public, always available for appropriation and empowerment of the population. We celebrate its anniversary by remembering the strong power that this type of architecture has in the city, and honoring the vital preservation of these spaces still to this day.