the São Paulo Museum of Art exterior
The São Paulo Museum of Art. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Traveling may be off the table now, but 2021 is around the corner—and with it comes the promise of the retro road trip! (Though it may be tricky to drive this structure: it’s in Brazil!) Nonetheless, our retro road trip pick, the São Paulo Museum of Art, serves as a striking symbol of modern Brazilian architecture and houses an impressive art collection.

The Architect

The Brutalist glass-and-concrete museum was built from 1957-1968, and it replaced the museum’s original 1947 location. The structure was designed by architect Lina Bo Bardi, an Italian whom Arch Daily calls “one of the most important and expressive architects of 20th century Brazilian architecture.” Bo Bardi sought to create a museum that looked dramatic and monumental while minimizing visual pretentiousness. She wanted to design a structure worthy of the art inside it without alienating the average passerby.

São Paulo Museum of Art exterior in 1968
The exterior of the museum during its opening year, 1968. Courtesy of Arquivo Biblioteca e Centro de Documentação do MASP via CodyLee.

The Building Process

The São Paulo Museum of Art is suspended above the ground, which allows room for public space beneath the structure. It was important to Bo Bardi that ” the museum return the same amount of public space that it borrowed.” This 242-foot-long suspension is held in place with four concrete beams, creating a floating effect.

The Exterior

The exterior of the museum is covered in panels of glass, separated by lines of steel. The top and bottom portions of the structure are concrete, as well as the four large pillars, which are painted red. The design of the São Paulo Museum of Art blends together key elements of International Style (a linear and sleek glass-and-steel facade) with Brutalism (the structure’s looming presence and oversized concrete elements). This intentional choice by Bo Bardi creates an aesthetic that dazzles some while frustrating others.

São Paulo Museum of Art interior
The floating interior. Courtesy of the São Paulo Museum of Art.

The Interior

The dramatic design choices of the São Paulo Museum of Art don’t stop on the exterior, though. Its unique architectural flavor continues inside too! Bo Bardi originally designed the interior of the galleries so that the art itself seems to be floating. Concrete blocks and glass panels hold the art in place. What’s more, the galleries have an open floorplan, allowing visitors to wander around the exhibition as they see fit. The pops of red and concrete from the exterior continue inside, creating a unified space.

the São Paulo Museum of Art exterior
Who else is dreaming of Brazil? Courtesy of the São Paulo Museum of Art.

Want To Visit?

Ready to see the São Paulo Museum of Art for yourself? Book your flights for 2021 and head to São Paulo, Brazil where you’ll find this dynamic and inspiring structure. Get tickets and learn more about the museum at After you’ve done that, don’t forget to follow us on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest for more Atomic Ranch articles and ideas!