The recent passing of Zaha Hadid has prompted many to celebrate her famously expressive and innovative architecture. Zaha’s buildings are found worldwide, and her signature designs of grand gestures and sweeping lines have always been instant icons, in every setting. Her untimely death is rightfully received as a great loss.
I must admit, however, that Zaha has never been my real female idol. Her approach to design did not appeale to me, no matter how powerful the designs were. No, she did not become my hero.
For me, that hero was Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), the Brazilian architect of Italian descent. Zaha and Lina were both strong and impressive women, but entirely different in their approach and ideas about the architect’s role. While Zaha was the aesthete, the creator of gravity-defying dynamical sculptures, Lina made engaged designs that were strongly connected with the Brazilian society context of that time. Lina was not a modest woman either. Her strikingly unique designs, which always fitted their particular place, made powerful statements. Take the Fabrica da Pompeia, which she turned into a community center, placing a colossal concrete tower for sports and recreation at its center. Or take the museum in Sao Paulo, which she lifted up to create a square in an overcrowded city that knows little to no public spaces.
Zaha and Lina, two admirable architects. But it is Lina Bo Bardi who makes my heart beat faster, because she stands for what our profession is all about: “The artist’s freedom has always been 'individual', but true freedom can only be collective. A freedom aware of social responsibilities, which can knock down the frontiers of aesthetics." [Lina Bo Bardi]
May 2016, Cobouw.nl