As designers, many of us are constantly under pressure to create something timeless. Rather than blending in with current styles and appealing to only contemporary audiences, we aim to build chairs our families will pass down through the generations, or buildings that will stylishly house people for years to come. For the Raiz project, a Brazilian design collective comprised of over thirty furniture and product designers, timeless design is at the core of their mission. At the International Contemporary Furniture Fair next week at the Javits Center in Manhattan, twelve Raiz members will showcase their craft with everything from sweeping chaises to orb-like light fixtures to sustainable soap dispensers.
One Raiz designer headed to New York is Claudia Issa. She says that her unconventional Konsepta collection of ceramic and blown glass is reminiscent of Brazil’s “anthropophagia” movement, coined by Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade, which stems from the word cannibalism -- in this case, combining European and American influence to assert their own dominance during European rule. According to Issa, “This was an important Brazilian cultural and musical movement that literally proposed to feed on the diverse things of the world to create something ‘ours’.” As a result, Konsepta works have been born.
The mixed use of natural elements from Brazil is often seen in Raiz members’ work. Using their natural resources to create work that is representative of the culture that quite literally surrounds them, product designers like “rising Talent” nominee Guilherme Wentz, 38-year old award-winning furniture maker Jader Almeida (whose Donna chairs are featured in the main image), and Larissa Batista’s (whose Sole chair is above) make new use of Brazil’s historical exports such as wood and cane. Almeida feels that nature makes itself known in his work subconsciously.
Guto Indio da Costa, a Swiss-trained industrial designer working in Rio, warns that an appreciation for the beauty of these materials is also necessary. “There must be great respect when working with wood and the great challenge is the well balanced management of resources, which are in fact renewable.” Da Costa’s architectural and urban planning firm is responsible for some of the largest design endeavors in Brazil and abroad, from designing over 7000 of Sao Paulo’s sustainable bus stops to the Guggenheim Museum of Helsinki.
The inclination to create from commodity is true for Plataforma 4, four individual female designers who came together to make something bigger, and frequently design for companies that are committed to the environment. “We work mainly with wood,” the designers shared, “The great variety of Brazilian wood, its availability and the specialized labour bring us many possibilities of use and finishing.” Architect Alexandra Delgado is also faced with choosing mediums for her furniture and buildings. “To use the wood correctly, legally, and to find quality material to guarantee durability are the biggest challenges,” she says.
What sets the Raiz designers apart, however, is not their dedication to timeless design or natural materials, it is their pride and connection to their Brazilian heritage. In almost all the designers' work, a reverence for their country’s natural landscape is present. “Nature in Brazil is extraordinary and very diverse, a true kaleidoscope of colors and shapes,” says sculpting studio HOLARIA. “Somehow, we try to apply this diversity and complexity of forms to porcelain.”
Combining new materials and technology with traditional techniques is second nature to Neomi Saga Atelier too, as is making that full emotional connection between people and objects. The Pedrita lamp series honors that semi-precious and exotic stone found in Brazilian territory. Pedrita means “valuable stone.” Says Neomi Saga, “We worked in a minimalist perspective, using straight lines and simple shapes to highlight material's’ natural properties.” Vein patterns, color, and translucency resemble volcanic lava, green archipelagos, running rivers, and glaciers.
“Design is a product of the human spirit, like any other creative field,” explains Jorge Almeida, “When we put ourselves to the exercise of thinking and creating something, we bring with us all of our background experience and information we have inside.”
Twelve Raiz Project designers will be exhibiting at ICFF from May 19-22 at the following booths: 2636, 2811, 2827, 2846, 2732, 2727, 2541, 2741, 2651, 2926, 2572 and 2533. Raiz was founded in collaboration by the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency and furniture industry association Sindmóveis