Open Expression

As our context changes our needs and desires also change, and things that were once meaningful become ordinary. Both the kinds of openness brought up by Eco in his essay, even though powerful tools, are not enough to supply the agency and participation needed in the 21st century. Is it possible to blur the boundaries of authorship? Can content creator and consumer be co-authors of a work? This are some of the questions raised by Lina Bo Bardi in her design of the Sesc Pompéia (1977, 1982-86).
    The complex, situated in São Paulo, Brazil, is composed of an old brick building, a massive unfinished concrete block, and a water tower, placed in a weirdly shaped city block. Instead of starting with a blank slate, Bo Bardi made sure to keep the structure of the existing brick shed exposed and unbothered, a decision made after visiting the site for the first time. The generator of this work was the term “arquitetura pobre”, or “poor architecture”. Bo Bardi described the approach as ”poor not in the sense of indigence, but in the sense of the handmade, great dignity expressed with humble means”. The brick shed, that was once a house for different fabrics, became a “living room for the city”, a library, a theatre, restaurants; the newly built concrete block, became an sports complex. Visually, the building positions itself through its “raw and bold expression” challenging “the technological progress and consumerism brought on by oppressive international economic and cultural systems in rapidly developing economies”, as stated by the writer Cathrine Veikos. It goes against the extreme high-tech, perfectly finished architectural style that was erupting at the time, with the example of Centre Pompidou, by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. Characterized by its “incomplete architecture”, the users in these projects are not merely passive, but engaged in the creation of the space themselves, “the users construct the architecture just as much as the architect”. This way, Lina Bo Bardi, instead of presenting herself as their savior, solver of the problems people didn’t even know they had, Lina Bo Bardi shared the authorship with the surrounding community, becoming merely a co-author, or even a mediator between the users and the thing being used. It is only natural that the architect took the open path with the design of the SESC Pompéia, the building was completed right after the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil, which lasted twenty one years. Architecture, in this case, was an act of opposition to the censorship and control installed by the government, it was a way to express the “practice of freedom” and the empowerment of the people.