The Arts Thrive in Brazil

March 29th, 2012


I read an article in the New York Times a few days ago about the ever expanding budget of the government financed arts commission of Brazil. Since the crash of 2008, most leading countries like the US and the UK have had to aggressively cut funding to arts organizations, while surprisingly in Brazil, the country's leading financing body of the arts, the Social Service of Commerce (SESC), has been greeted each year with at least a 10% increase in spending funds. Having lived in the UK in the past 2 years, I know the struggles the arts communities face are on par with those in the US. Yet, in Brazil the arts are flourishing and the surplus of financial support is leading to innovative collaborations. Daily life has merged with the arts, rather than existing alongside and separate from each other. This is made possible by a unique 1.5% tax on payroll, which removes the pressures and influence of seeking corporate sponsorship and allows the SESC to stay focused on community involvement in arts and culture. In a growing country of more than 200 million people, the government feels its people need access to cultural activities as well as medical services and other necessities. 


The SESC Pompeia in Sao Paulo is just one of the complexes scattered throughout Brazil that houses a variety of cultural and educational activities. The factory complex, converted between 1977-1986, now houses theatres, leisure areas, gymnasiums, pools, a solarium, food bars, full restaurants, galleries, workshops and other services. The complex is hugely successful in its ability to interest a wide variety of the public. This video by Arquitetura shows the vast size, beauty and vibrancy of the structure and its role in Sao Paolo's community.

The complex itself is a work of art, combining the rehabbed Colonial brick factory buildings and the purpose-built rough concrete structure that houses the sporting facilities and concert hall. Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi designed the vast new addition to the original factory buildings in 1986, connecting the spaces with a web of walkways in the sky. After completing her architectural studies in 1925, Bo Bardi trained under Gio Ponti, and later moved to Brazil after her own architecture firm in Milan was bombed during WWII. What she found in Brazil was "an unimaginable country, where everything was possible". Though often under appreciated, her work is second behind Oscar Niemeyer. She is most well-known for the Sao Paolo Museum of Art (1968) and the Glass House (1950) she designed for herself and her husband. She was also a prolific and inventive furniture designer. Bo Bardi designed the SESC Pompeia in Sao Paolo just 6 years before her death and it stands today as a testament to her eye for stunning architecture and hand for drafting with the people in mind. 


Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

Get the Latest

Sign up to receive emails about our design inspirations, projects, sales events, and more.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.