Lina Bo Bardi – Giancarlo Palanti Studio D’Arte Palma

In 2018, Space Caviar was commissioned by Nilufar Gallery to design the display systems for an exhibition of the work of Studio D’Arte Palma, a design collaboration between Lina Bo Bardi and Giancarlo Palanti. The exhibition was the first major overview of the furniture designed by the two architects, both better known for their built work, and presents the largest collection of their furniture ever brought together. Many of the pieces displayed, mostly chairs and armchairs, are rare objects originating in Brazil. The unique combination of iconic and everyday in her furniture, each piece conceived for a specific context, is in particular a powerful expression of Lina Bo Bardi’s generous and all-encompassing philosophy of design.

Reading room at SESC Pompeia, Sao Paulo, with tables and seating designed by LBB, Biblioteca - Photo: Aleix Gorgorió Estruch

/ Materials


Inspired by Lina Bo Bardi’s uncompromising use of simple, affordable and readily available materials, we started out by testing a system of modular pedestals constituted of just two materials, both widely used by LBB herself in her architecture: red brick and tempered glass. The use of bricks — the ultimate modular material — meant that each pedestal could be dimensioned to highlight an individual piece, or to place multiple pieces in dialogue.

Study collage for pedestal design - Space Caviar, 2017
Study of brick pedestal configurations - Space Caviar, 2017
View of the picture gallery of MASP on Avenida Paulista, 1970s. Lina Bo Bardi, exhibition design. Photo: Luiz Hossaka

The height of each pedestal is defined by the number of layers of bricks, introducing an element of dynamism into the space and allowing us to control the viewing angle for each piece. A sheet of glass, dimensioned appropriately for the size of the pedestal, is positioned on top of the uppermost brick layer, and acts both as the supporting surface for the furniture and as a homage to LBB’s own exhibition design for MASP Museum in São Paulo, in which she extensively used glass as a structural support. No mortar, glue, screws or other fixtures were used — just the two untreated materials.

Installation view, Lina Bo Bardi — Giancarlo Palanti Studio D’Arte Palma at Nilufar Depot, Milan (April 2018) Photo - Amendolagine Barracchia

The result is a series of islands of varying size that combine the imperfect, textured materiality of red brick with the reflective, evanescent perfection of glass. To offer visitors some context for the works on display, a series of historical images of the work of Lina Bo Bardi, Giancarlo Palanti and the Studio d’Arte Palma were printed on a transparent polymer and suspended from the ceiling — also a reference to LBB’s MASP displays.

Installation view, Lina Bo Bardi — Giancarlo Palanti Studio D’Arte Palma at Nilufar Depot, Milan (April 2018) Photo - Amendolagine Barracchia

/ Brick


A key decision was what type of bricks to use. Since the exhibition was intended to travel, we decided to use this as a way to place it in dialogue with its context by picking the cheapest, most commonly used type in each place. In Italy, for example, the most commonly used are a variety of terracotta air-bricks called “forati”, which offer an excellent strength to weight ratio and an pleasing deep red hue. We were also attracted to their geometric pattern of cavities, and at €0.98 per piece, they’re very affordable.

“Forati” at the local Bricoman

Since the bricks hadn’t been altered in any way, at the end of the exhibition they were simply returned to the store where they were purchased, avoiding much of the material waste usually involved in the production of exhibition systems.

Installation view, Lina Bo Bardi Giancarlo Palanti — Studio D’Arte Palma at Nilufar Depot, Milan (April 2018) Photo - Amendolagine Barracchia

/ Curtains


In order to create a distinct space for the exhibition within Nilufar Depot, long curtains were draped around the perimeter to separate the central atrium from the peripheral galleries. We selected a lightweight, low-opacity gauze from Dedar to allow a degree of visual connection between the spaces to remain, while enhancing the lightness and vertical proportions of the atrium. This was also a tribute to LBB’s own use of fabrics in Teatro Oficina.

Installation view, Lina Bo Bardi Giancarlo Palanti — Studio D’Arte Palma at Nilufar Depot, Milan (April 2018) Photo - Amendolagine Barracchia

Visuals and development sketches

Taking inspiration from Lina Bo Bardi’s famous glass displays at Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo — images of Lina Bo Bardi and her works were printed on duraclear sheets cut at the same dimensions of the original glass panels. Both the brick and transparent polymer sheets layout follow her original floor plan for the iconic glass easels at MASP. The transparent sheets allows for the imagery to be viewed from both sides creating a composite of the images - we worked together with Duggal Visual Solutions to produce the prints.

Study collage for exhibition design - Space Caviar, 2017
Study collage for exhibition design - Space Caviar, 2017

/ Traveling Locations


Design at Large Basel (June 2018)

Basel’s Design at Large/ Design Miami presents large-scale works of historical and contemporary design, showcasing ambitious architectural installations that feature both conceptual and industrial innovation. Design at Large is intended to be a site of discovery for visitors to the fair, presenting a selection of works that explore a particular theme inspired by current topics in design. For this setting, the brick and glass configuration used in Milan was redesigned to present a selection of the furniture pieces in the vast spaces of the main exhibition hall. Beam-shaping projectors were used to illuminate the individual pieces while leaving the background in darkness.

Lina Bo Bardi - Giancarlo Palanti Studio D'Arte Palma, Nilufar Gallery, Design at Large Basel, 2018 Photo - James Harris

/ Design Museum Gent (October 2019)


After Design at Large, The exhibition Lina Bo Bardi Giancarlo Palanti — Studio D'Arte Palma traveled to the Design Museum Gent. The original design was adapted to this new museum context and locally sourced Belgian bricks were chosen for the assemblage of the pedestals. Curtains were used to create an orthogonal space inside the irregular geometry of the centenary building. In order to disrupt the rhythm of the existing pillars in the space, the layout was tilted 45 degrees, creating a break from its regularity.

Photo - Philip Dujardin ©Design Museum Gent
Photo - Philip Dujardin ©Design Museum Gent


Curated by
Nina Yashar
With the support of
Instituto Bardi | Casa de Vidro

Exhibition Design:
Space Caviar
– Joseph Grima, Sofia Pia Belenky

Creative Direction:
Studio Vedèt
– Valentina Ciuffi, Georgia Cranstoun, Nunzio Mazzaferro

Photography : Amendolagine Barracchia

Special Thanks:
Dedar Milano
Duggal Visual Solutions
Janet Yonaty Inc.
Nelson Kon
Instituto Bardi | Casa de Vidro


16/04 2018 – 08/03 2019
Nilufar Depot
Viale Lancetti 34 Milano

12/06 2018 - 17/06 2018
Design Miami/Basel - Design at Large
Basel, Switzerland

25/10 2019 - 16/02 2020
Bo Bardi - Palanti at Design Museum Gent
Design Museum Gent