This month

Play Good by Architects: Beauty and the Right to Be Ugly by Lina Bo Bardi

As part of our annual theme Game & City, we write about Play Good Made by Architects every month. Over the past few months, we've highlighted toys designed by renowned architects such as Mart Stam, Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, Charles & Ray Eames, Vilanova Artigas, Bruno Taut and Enzo Mari. This month, architect Lina Bo Bardi is the focus. It's the latest in our Play Good by Architects series.

Lina Bo Bardi (1914 — 1992) was an Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect. She was a productive architect who spent her life focusing on the social and cultural aspects of architecture. She became best known outside Brazil after her death. In the 90s of the last century and early 2000s, more and more publications and exhibitions about her work appeared. A little-known work by her is a doll; not designed by her, but found by her! Around this doll, Bo Bardi designed and created a complete exhibition entitled Beauty and the Right to be Ugly.

Bo Bardi saw how, in the 1970s, Brazil was increasingly flooded by American goods for children, especially Disney products. These products had a certain ideal of beauty — for example, the Barbie dolls of tall, thin, blonde girls — and Bo Bardi acted against them. After all, so-called ugliness had just as much right to be there as these Western beauty ideals. On one of her trips, she found a doll that embodied the “ideal of ugliness” and this doll became the center of the exhibition. With this exhibition, Bo Bardi tried to promote the “right to the ugly”.

She translated this into her architecture. After all, who actually decided what was beautiful and ugly? Bo Bardi tried to stimulate critical thinking about the process of the material production of beauty. She went so far as to say in an interview in 1972 that her “main goal as an architect was to make ugly architecture”. There's no arguing about taste, we say in the Netherlands. The fact is that her architecture was posthumously awarded a Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2021. Ugly or not.