STONES AGAINST DIAMONDS is a new collection of short essays by Lina Bo Bardi, many translated from Portuguese into English for the first time and published as part of the Architectural Association’s ‘Words’ series. I have long felt a strong affinity to Lina. Lina’s work is extremely clear, simultaneously brutally cutting and beautiful.
As Silvana Rubino explains in the introduction to this volume, Lina was born in Rome during a moment of futurist energy, and never passed through the moment of crisis from academicism to the modern mentality (think of Alvar Aalto, et al). She trained in Rome and began her career in Milan before emigrating to Brazil, where she built her life.
Carrying the heritage of the Italian Left, which was reacting to fascism while attempting to grapple with the divide in their own country between the industrialized and sophisticated North and the comparitively provincial and underperforming South, Lina engaged modernity and the past with a nuanced criticality.
‘With the founding father of Brazilian modern architecture, Lucio Costa, Lina engaged in a dialogue that hinged upon a point of honour: the relationship with the past. For Costa, the key to Brazilian modernism lay partly in colonial architecture, while for Lina the essential root was in vernacular construction…’ ‘In generational terms, Lina could have been a member of Team 10. Her brutalism brings her close to the Smithsons; her embracing of ‘folk culture’ earned her an ally in Aldo van Eyck.’A further banal point I will add in agreement with Rubino: Lina immediately recognized the stink of death surrounding postmodernism. As Rubino expains
‘she continued to declare herself a modernist even after the next generation came along and many of her compatriots converted to postmodernism, a term and practice that she condemned without even taking the trouble to translate - it was the death of architecture.’
Lina’s projects, one thinks of her own house, are among the most aesthetically and ideologically well crafted works of the last century. Her commitments, focused through writings and design practice, drew together vernacular knowledge and climate (cultural and physical), with a sophisticated reaction to and deployment of the emerging modern technologies and material proliferation of her moment.