The most iconic piece of design of this year’s World Cup is getting kicked around a lot. The Brazuca, the ball designed by Adidas, has been winning praise from players and fans alike. But it’s hardly the only piece of design that’s been garnering attention lately. With Brazil currently playing host to the World Cup and the Olympics in 2016, the Latin American giant has sparked plenty of interest around the world.
“Brazil is really in vogue at the moment,” says Lissa Carmona, chief executive officer of Etel Interiores, one of the country’s most prestigious modern and contemporary furniture companies.
Brazil’s design history stretches back less than 100 years: The Modern Art Week, a festival held in Sao Paulo in 1922, triggered a widespread interest in modernism. Then in the 1950s, the country enjoyed a “golden decade,” Carmona says, with legendary designer Sergio Rodrigues, “the father of Brazilian furniture,” and legendary architect Oscar Niemeyer leading the way.
There is still a strong architectural, sculptural quality to the best contemporary Brazilian design, says Stephan Weishaupt, president of Avenue Road, a Toronto-based furniture company that recently hosted an exhibition of Brazilian design and carries pieces by several of the country’s best designers.
The European influence still evident in so much Brazilian design is intermingled with a diverse mix of other cultural influences that have entered the country over its long and complicated history. Added to all those influences are local techniques, a keen interest in colour and a frequent use of wood, especially varieties that come from the Amazon, all of which combine to create something unique, Weishaupt says.
“There’s a certain richness to them that really stands out. They’re statement pieces,” he says.
Carlos Motta, one of Brazil’s design luminaries, says the country’s rich design culture, with its adherence to functionality and expressive lines, results from the fact that its best designers are, like him, also architects.
Those designers are finally enjoying their moment on the international stage. “There’s a lot of eyes watching Brazil right now,” Motta says.
Etel won the right to begin producing reissues of Oscar Niemeyer’s classic pieces, including this, arguably his most iconic work of furniture. “You can almost see his architecture as translated in to his furniture pieces,” Stephen Weishaupt says. (etelinteriores.com.br)
One of Carlos Motta’s best sellers, the chair is made from reclaimed wood and is intended to be as simple and natural as possible. “It’s just a few very simple cuts. We don’t use varnish, we don’t use industrial materials,” Motta says. (carlosmotta.com.br)
Unveiled in 2011, Carlo Motta’s Rio chair was inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s “sweetness, beauty, salty air, colonial buildings and its inhabitants’ exuberant joy.” (carlosmotta.com.br)
Petalas Coffee Table
Another icon of Brazilian design, Jorge Zalszupin’s Petalas coffee table is, as the name suggests, inspired by the blooming petals of a flower. Made from pau ferro, a wood native to Brazil and Bolivia, the table is a brilliant example of use of local materials. (etelinteriores.com.br)
Made from hand-carved Pequi wood, Hugo França’s Butuiê chaise weighs more than 270 kilograms. In keeping with the interest in sustainability that runs throughout Brazil’s design community, França only uses wood that’s been downed naturally or left behind by clear-cutting. (hugofranca.com.br)
One of the most acclaimed younger Brazilian designers, Brunno Jahara riffed on the bright colours of his country’s favelas and Brazil’s rural roots with this credenza, made from rough wood. (brunnojahara.com)