Focus on Brazil: São Paulo Museum of Art / MASP

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Prior to SESC Pompeia, Lina Bo Bardi designed the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) between 1957 and 1968. MASP is constructed on the Paulista Avenue ridge which falls toward Centro to the north and the wealthy Jardins neighborhoods to the south. The museum is composed of two gallery volumes, one elevated with magnificent views and the other, shown here, buried in the hillside.

While attention is often directed skyward to the massive red pillars from which hang the glass truss of the upper volume at street level, less attention has been paid to MASP’s subterranean world. Here, the dialogue between volumes is subtly referenced, from the red of the exterior pillars that has been applied to circulation stair ramps to the concrete displays designed for the elevated volume abstracted into railings that double as benches. Even less legible is the role of the ceiling as floor to a vast exterior public plaza, first used for mass public demonstrations in the years of the military dictatorship. As a narrative between visible and invisible, levity and weight, sky and earth, MASPs architectonic hybridity reflects its cultural ambiguity as a political, artistic and public urban space.

Find images of this project by searching the VRC’s online image collection using the search term SESC in the Subject field.

Photograph by Kristine Stiphany, courtesy of the UTSOA Visual Resources Collection