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15 February 2018

Renato Anelli on Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro

Architect, planner and historian Renato Anelli is a board member of the Lina Bo Bardi Institute. He is currently overseeing the conservation management plan for her Casa de Vidro, as part of the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern initiative. Renato was a speaker at our Fifth International Iconic Houses Conference in New Canaan 15-18 May 2018. His lecture can be watched in the (below) link.

Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa de Vidro: Modern Architecture in a Tropical Environment

What does the Getty conservation initiative, Keeping it Modern, mean to the Casa de Vidro?
It enables us to plan ahead in a comprehensive way, by providing us with a new methodology. It’s a timely step. The institute that runs the house started off with a good endowment. That has now run out and the conditions surrounding conservation have changed. The program has allowed us to draw up a holistic plan, ranging from preservation to financial sustainability.

The plan is for Casa de Vidro to become a house museum. What progress have you made with that?
We’ve made it much easier to visit. Previously, you could only visit by appointment, but since last year we’re open to the public three days a week. We’ve been surprised by the visitor numbers – 900 a month, and that’s before we’ve done any publicity. Obviously, this will positively impact our budget.

What insights did your conservation plan research give you into the house?
We looked into the technical aspects of the construction and found that the plan for a steel frame had been adapted to concrete – very well too –by the Brazilian team. Our understanding of the garden also deepened. This was not planned, but intended as an ‘extension’ of the forest.

What does the preservation plan prioritize?
Our urgent priorities are to protect the house from tree overgrowth, repair the roof, replace the asbestos tiles and adapt the frames holding the glass so that it is under less pressure and less likely to break than is currently the case.

What do you personally enjoy most about the house?
The living space is a mix of Le Corbusier and Mies, a mix that was unique to Lina Bo Bardi. The great transforming factor is the large-scale opening of the glass of the façade – possible because of the tropical setting. So straight away there’s a radical continuity between the interior and exterior. This house was never an isolated object, but a fusion of what the architect later called ‘natural and non-natural architecture.’

How did the house evolve while its architect lived in it?
In the mid-1950s she added organic touches – sinuous forms in the shape of new pathways for example – which were inspired by the work of Gaudí, which she’d seen in Spain. Then in 1986 she added a new studio, which is very much in the vernacular style. So every shift in her design can be traced here. It’s part of the house’s appeal.

Renato recommends watching a video about Casa de Vidro made by Tapio Snellman, a Finnish director, artist and architect based in London.

Jane Szita

Photo: Renato with Casa de Vidro (São Paulo, Argentina) in the background.

Publication date 15 February 2018