Bringing new meaning to materials, designers Humberto and Fernando Campana scale the heights of design fame, singling them out as Brazil's biggest design stars.
Creating with conscience, Brazilian design stars Humberto and Fernando Campana bring thoughtful design to the fore with an artisan take on design that is based on traditional crafts, incorporating recycled materials for an eco edge. The design stars reveal their unique approach that has made them two of the world's most collectible design stars of the 21st century.
Sibling designers Fernando and Humberto Campana have placed Brazil on the map with their unique craft-like approach to design, which has set them apart as leading design exponents of the current South American design scene. Since the mid 1980s, the ex-architect and sculptor, respectively, have created some of the most iconic designs of our time, from the 1991 Favela chair, produced by Edra in 2003, to the 2003 Sushi series, some of which will go under the hammer at next week's design auction held by Phillips de Pury in New York.
Taking inspiration from the streets of São Paulo, the brothers found beauty in discarded waste objects, such as rope, textiles, and of course, wood off-cuts. Recently, the designers have revisited more luxurious materials, such as marble, but at the core of their work remains a conscientious, creative approach that has established them as leading contemporary creators of the 21st century. The Campana brothers' works can be seen in permanent collections around the world, including New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Vitra Design Museum in Germany and Paris's Centre Georges Pompidou.
One of your most recent designs is a marble plate embellished with woven details, as part of Haaz Gallery's Block exhibition in Istanbul, which will be presented at next year's Milan Furniture Fair. Where did the idea come from?
Fernando: It was a continuation of another project, but most of all it was an experiment in mixing and blending two materials, with the challenge of weaving the marble, which is not weavable - that was the most interesting. That was our goal for this project. It's something that we started with Transplastic, our exhibition at London's Albion Gallery. We worked with both materials at the beginning of our career.
You are best known for working with discarded materials, found objects. Do you see yourself moving toward working with more luxurious materials?
Fernando: We have worked with gold for a jewelry collection for H. Stern, but we didn't stay with gold - it was an experiment, a limited edition. The company approached us to work with them again, but we were not in the mood for doing it - it doesn't attract us today. Stones or crystals would be a good thing, not so precious though. We have made an experiment, but it is still at the beginning stage. We started three years ago.
Humberto: All materials interest us, we wouldn't want to stay in one field. A designer needs to explore whatever may interest his mind and soul.
What else are you currently working on?
Humberto: We are creating the scenography for the ballet national in Marseille . It's about metamorphosis. This is a new step in our career, having people playing in the area, dancing in it. We don't have so much materialism in this thing. We tried to bring materialism to dance. We have created both the costumes and the scenography.
Fernando: It was very implicating, because we made our own place in the body of the dancers, not from a drawing. We constructed costumes on the body of the dancers.
Humberto: We just took the materials and started to play with them.
Fernando: We are also doing something for the Cooper Hewitt, which is very interesting. We're making a curatorial view of the collection, and we are working on a new collection of shoes for the Brazilian shoe brand Melissa. This is the third one, and it focuses more on the environmental and ecological. We ask them to have the product made from almost 50% recycled plastic, and there will also be a social program involving the communities, asking them to reuse the shoes, to transform them into other things. It's more about the program than the shoes. We have asked each of the designers – Karim Rashid, Patrick Cox, Zaha Hadid and Alexandre Herchcovitch – to make a solution for the shoe. When it's not a shoe anymore, it will become a vase or a desk organizer, whatever. On the box there will be ideas so people can collect them, to educate them. This project is more about education than the shoes. The shoe is beautiful too, but we are more interested in this. The same with Artek, they are here more to help, so I think that this is the point. We have done this since the beginning, but we never communicated it.
Conservation and ecological consideration have always been primary themes within your design?
Humberto: Absolutely. We have to find ways to make creation easier in response to what is happening on the planet. The biggest consideration for designers today is to not cast creation aside, but to work responsibly. It's much more about the environment, and not only the environment but making associations with communities.
Does this stem from your childhood?
Humberto: Well, we grew up in the countryside. Our father was an agronomic engineer. We lived in a small city where the backyard of our homes was the forest, so we had plenty of space - rivers, trees, mountains, lakes. I remember that we had a creek in the back garden, so during the summertime I used stones to make a pool, a barrage to keep the water in, to swim. This was a kind of early exercise with the hands. It sometimes feels like what we used to do when we were children.
Fernando: Our father used to take care of all the farms in the town. We used to go with him, and I remember I used to observe a lot how the country folk would solve their problems, with a bench, a swing in the trees, a coop to keep the chickens together... We loved this. On this farm that our father left, there are a lot of woods, native woods, so in the last two years, we have planned to plant 15,000 trees of native species, to reconstitute the nature there.
Humberto: You know, our work has always been a fusion between our childhood and the countryside and the city. We are making a bridge between these different worlds.
What would your ideal projects be?
Fernando: To work on a movie with David Lynch. I like him very much, but he's a designer too, so he's not going to allow us to do his scenography! Maybe Spielberg or Disney.
Humberto: I would like to make a garden. A place for a poor community. I'd like to transform a very polluted place into a paradise and to educate them on how to maintain this garden. My dream is not a project for the short term. It will take a long time to see the garden grow and the people living with it – I want to turn a shanty town into a garden.
What is happening in Brazil, in terms of design?
Fernando: There are more design schools. Somehow, Humberto and I opened up the doors for creators who have ideas but who may have fear or shame about growing it. Brazilians are much more proud of their creations. I'm not being pretentious, but we have made this happen somehow for them. Students send us their projects; also, people pass by our workshop or come to our studio for an internship. In next year's Design Yearbook we have four or five students from Brazilian workshops and our studio internships, and they are doing things that are very different from our work, not cloning it. It makes us very glad. It's better to have more people at the top than to be alone!
Which designers are you interested in?
Fernando: Ingo Maurer is a genius
Humberto: I like Jurgen Bey, Hella Jongerius.
What is the best advice you've ever been given as designers?
Humberto: As a creator, not to follow trends.
Humberto and Fernando's definition of luxury:
Humberto: Well-being. Luxury is about how to breathe good air, drink water, walk safely in the streets. This is my concern.
If luxury were...
Fernando: Under a waterfall in my home town.
Humberto: A walk with my dog. I love to walk with her. She's a dog that I found in the streets. Someone had abandoned her, so she chose me. She's very precious.
Humberto: Kyoto for the temples and the nature.
Fernando: The forest.
H – Frank Sinatra.
F – There are so many! I don't know why, but Kathleen Turner, I like her.
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