The Brazilian Modernist Designers and Architects: Brazil 1950 - 1970
- July 20, 2011 12:15
When people speak of Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro, they are generally speaking of the lush tropical natural beauty that is rivaled only by its inhabitants. They generally are speaking of Carnaval, The Girl from Ipanema and other such icons that conjure up beauties and the beach. They are not generally speaking of world class architects and furniture designers. But they should be.
Hi, my name is Heather Karlie Vieira and I'd like to introduce you to a world of important design. Oscar Niemeyer, Joaquim Tenreiro, Sergio Rodrigues, Jorge Zalszupin, Percival Lafer, Jean Gillon, Michel Arnoult. They may not be household names, yet, but they are some of the most influential designers and architects you may have never heard of. They were pioneers in the Brazilian Modernist movement that encouraged the people of Brazil to pull away from a traditional, even colonial approach to furniture and design, and accept a design that was all their own. Light, vibrant, rich, comfortable.
Using natural resources, tropical hardwoods, cane and understanding the need for comfort and beauty, these designers produced furniture and design for everyone. Some, like Lafer, Gillon and Arnoult, were at the forefront of Ready-to-Assemble furniture that was made of solid hardwoods, like Goncalo-Alves (Tiger Wood) which resembles Jacaranda (Brazilian Rosewood), and utilized leather seating. With only an allen wrench and some simple instructions, you'd have yourself an unbelievably comfortable lounge chair in minutes. Polish born Jorge Zalszupin, quickly adopted the Brazilian style and created furniture during the mid Century that was thought provoking and certainly pushed the boundaries.
Others, like Joaquim Tenreiro, took another approach. Creating furniture that was an exercise in lightness. He made good use of the same tropical hardwoods and with the help of his major client, architect Oscar Niemeyer, he was able to explore the possibilities of his desire to create furniture that was "... formally light... A lightness which has nothing to do with weight itself, but with graciousness, and the functionality of spaces."
Rio's favorite son, Sergio Rodrigues, is still producing some of his iconic designs. He may be most well known for his Poltrona Mole (soft chair) and the Sheriff Chair, but his scope goes far beyond these two designs. He created several lines of furniture of all different, groundbreaking designs. He, too, created furniture for Oscar Niemeyer for use in his iconic buildings of Brasilia. Rodrigues' work is Brazil. Gorgeous, sumptuous, comfortable and oversized.
And Oscar Niemeyer may be most well known for the architecture of Brasilia, but he too created some of Brazil's most iconic furniture. The Rio Chaise Lounge, is surely one of his most well known designs and embodies all that is Brazil. Tropical and light, using cane, the chaise has fluid curves and beckons you to relax and enjoy.
In addition to these icons, there are many more like Lina Bo Bardi, famous for the Sao Paulo Museum of Art which is a huge cantilevered glass box between two thin slabs of concrete, or perhaps Jose Zanine Caldas who was possibly the first to utilize the tropical hardwoods in their most raw and pure state, seeing the functionality in the beauty of the wood, and there's Martin Eisler whose Bone Chair is a stunning example of simplicity and comfort. The list goes on, and I do hope my short guest blog has whet your appetite for more.
Brazil is a beautiful country defined by its environment. Brazilians enjoy their environment, making the best of what it has to offer. Whether creating a capital city in what was an empty land (Oscar Niemeyer's buildings in Brasilia), revolting against a traditionally European furniture aesthetic and creating "formally light" furniture (Portuguese born Joaquim Tenreiro) or relishing in all that is 'Carioca' (Rio's favorite son, Sergio Rodrigues) - these architects and designers are certainly names to know.