Assemble + Lina Bo Bardi: An Impossible Reality

A watercolour of a building with an outdoor courtyard filled with plants, people and structures
  • Lina Bo Bardi (Rome, Italy, 1914 – São Paulo, Brazil, 1992) Preliminary Study—Practicable Sculptures for the Belvedere at Museu de Arte Trianon, 1968. Collage, China ink and watercolour on paper, 56.2 × 76.5 cm. Collection Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, Gift Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi, 2006. MASP.04442. Photo: MASP

In 1962, the legendary Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi drew a fantastical playground. This colourful drawing imagines a series of vast structures in front of Museum of Art, São Paulo (MASP), which she had recently designed. They loom over the museum – as though imagined by children, rather than an architect. This was important for Bo Bardi, who wrote: “the young will be the protagonists in the life of the museum through design, music and theatre”.

This utopian play-space was, however, never built. Today, the unrealised design prompts the question: how might we reimagine galleries, play and education?

More than three years in the making, in summer 2022 Nottingham Contemporary will collaborate with the design collective Assemble to bring Bo Bardi’s vision to life. Inspired by the architect’s now-famous drawing, this ambitious project will realise a series of large-scale play sculptures, one of which was developed in dialogue with children from three local schools.

At each school Assemble worked closely with a resident artist and children over time to explore themes around play. Children’s actions, ideas and responses were at the heart of this conversation; Assemble have created a design for and by the city’s children. So, let’s go and play.

Assemble is a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art. Founded in 2010, Assemble has developed a co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales – both making things and making things happen. In 2015, they won the Turner Prize, the first architects to do so.

Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92) was a prolific Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect. She devoted herself to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. While studying under radical Italian architects, she quickly became intrigued with Brazilian vernacular design and how it could influence a modern Brazilian architecture.

Schools of Tomorrow is a 4-year learning and research programme funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which places artists in residence at eight local schools. Together, artists and teachers develop approaches to supporting creativity in and beyond the classroom through a process of action-led enquiry. Assemble linked with three of our partner schools to develop a play structure.