Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
Teatro Oficina Interior | © Iñigo Bujedo Aguirre

The Oficina Teatro, designed by Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi in São Paulo in 1984, represents a bold and unconventional architectural statement. Transformed from a historic office building that had been tragically burned, the renovation project was conceived as a vibrant and dynamic space, with elements resembling painted scaffolding. This design choice pays homage to the artistic creativity and experimental nature of the sets housed within the venue.

While Teatro Oficina presents challenges with its unconventional sightlines and hard seating, these very attributes contribute to its unique character. Far from traditional theatre design, its unorthodox shape and layout intensify the theatrical experience, making it an iconic and much-revered cultural landmark.

Teatro Oficina Technical Information

Architecture is created, ‘invented anew,’ by each man who attempts her, who roams her space, climbs a stair, rests on a balustrade, lifts his head to look, open, close a door, who sits down or gets up and makes intimate contact with – and at the same time create ‘forms’ in – the space […]

This intimate, fiery, contact, that which was perceived by man at the beginning, is today forgotten. Routine and communal places made man forget the natural beauty of “moving in space,” of his conscious movement, of those little gestures…

– Lina Bo Bardi1

Teatro Oficina by Lina Bo Bardi Photographs

Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
© Nelson Kon
Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
Aerial View
Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
Theater Interior
Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
Rear Facade of the Theater
Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
Theater Rear Opening

Teatro Oficina: A Symbol of Cultural Transformation and Architectural Brilliance

Teatro Oficina, located in Bexiga, São Paulo, stands as a symbol of cultural transformation and architectural innovation. Once a working-class neighborhood with a strong Italian presence, Bexiga evolved into a diverse cultural hub by the 1980s. Teatro Oficina’s original structure, which succumbed to a fire in 1966, was restored and given a new life by the Oficina Theatre Company.

The remaining brick shell of the burned-out theatre was transformed into a people’s theatre that measures 9 meters in width and 50 meters in length. Architect Lina Bo Bardi, in collaboration with Edson Elito and the theatre’s creator, Zé Celso, envisioned a long, narrow, street-like space within this shell. The concept was inspired by Zé Celso’s own experience and vision, which he claimed came to him during an acid trip while evading the police.

From its imposing main entrance off the Minhocão expressway, the theatre descends within the city block, creating a unique spatial experience. The large glazed surface on the right opens to provide access to Silvio Santos’s adjacent property, where the Teatro Oficina company stages temporary setups to attract vast audiences.

The building’s design supports the orgiastic performances for which the theatre is famous, with limited space for spectators and an emphasis on the actors. The general public, technicians, props, and performers all share the stage in a departure from traditional theatrical conventions. This design aligns with the company’s avant-garde approach, in which the theatre is no longer a “dream box” but an authentic lifestyle expression.

Teatro Oficina’s restoration is a remarkable example of architectural resilience, creativity, and adaptation. It’s not just a venue for performances but a living testament to the power of community, art, and architecture to revitalize and redefine a space. It serves as a landmark that embodies São Paulo’s cultural history and ongoing evolution.

Linear time is a Western invention; time is not linear, it is a marvellous tangle where at any moment, points can be selected and solutions invented without beginning or end.

– Lina Bo Bardi1

Teatro Oficina Plans

Floor Plans and section of Teatro Oficina / Lina Bo Bardi
Floor Plans and Section | Credit: Lina Bo Bardi Architects

Teatro Oficina Image Gallery

About Lina Bo Bardi

Lina Bo Bardi, original name in full Achillina Bo, (born December 5, 1914, Rome, Italy—died March 29, 1992, São Paulo, Brazil), Italian-born Brazilian Modernist architect, industrial designer, historic preservationist, journalist, and activist whose work defied conventional categorization. She designed daring idiosyncratic structures that merged Modernism with populism.

Bo Bardi is recognized, though somewhat belatedly, as one of the most prolific women architects of the 20th century. In 2012, the centennial of her birth, Bo Bardi’s career was celebrated with the launching of a limited-edition line of her bowl chair, a major traveling retrospective organized by the British Council in London, and the publication of a scholarly monograph that spans her life’s work.

  1. Lina Bo Bardi: The Theory of Architectural Practice by Cathrine Veikos