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wide angle Ferna n do a n d H um b erto Ca m pa n a
0 Adélia Borges—A quarter century is a big deal. In what ways have you changed and how have you remained the same? Humberto Campana—What stays the same is the poetry. The world has changed, today we are produced by large companies, we are not the small studio we once were. We’ve been collaborating with Grendene, Alessi, Edra, for ten years. But there is the same thread running through it all – poetry, trying to give objects a soul. Fernando Campana—Something that Ingo Maurer told us at our first exhibition with him at MoMA, is to keep control of your creation and not let it get lost in the hands of an editor. And we managed to convey poetry to the industry. Our aim is not to follow what other people do, but what our heart says. AB—Your backbone has been the same since the beginning, based on your vision of a contemporary Brazilianness. However, constant experimentation is also a mark of the Campana brothers. The landscaper Roberto Burle Marx used to say that the worst plagiarism is of yourself. What do you think? FC—Some curators say that sometimes we give out false clues. We finish up a concept and then, from one moment to the next, out comes the opposite. Last year we began with the Brazilian Baroque collection (shown in London), then there was Concepts (New York) and the mirrors (Ocean Collection, in Paris). All that in a year is difficult, as it seems that you are shooting off in all directions. HC—Our design is of contamination, it gathers messages that have been expressed in other works and encourages people to have the same freedom in other languages. This concept is very important to our work.
In june 1989, the Desconfortáveis (Uncomfortable) exhibition in São Paulo was Fernado and Humberto Campana’s entrance into the world of design. International recognition beckoned the following year with a show at MoMA in New York, meaning the brothers soon became a reference both in Brazil and abroad through their work, which sits at the junction between design, handicraft and art. Now, 25 years on, Wish Casa has invited Adélia Borges, the first journalist to publish an article on the pair, to speak to them. The interview follows.
AB—It seems to me that there have been three very significant cities on your path, Brotas, São Paulo and Milan. Is that right? FC—In Milan, I feel like I’m in São Paulo. The way people interact and behave are the same. It’s not at all about the refinement or anything, it’s because the doorman looks like he’s from here. Apart from the similarities because of our Italian descent. But France surprises us whenever it trusts and grasps the coherence of the steps we’ve taken. The French decode our work more easily than Italians. Anything about dreams, fantasies, the French lap up. They allow themselves more extravagance. It’s remarkable that the Musée d’Orsay has a café called Campana. A lot of people don’t believe it. AB—Interest in Brazilian design has grown and you have made a significant contribution to this visibility. But in my view many people
from abroad search for a stereotypical image here that ends up keeping us in the niche of a tropical, exotic and developing country. Is this something you’ve noticed? FC—I’ve been noticing more and more that when I ask, “Have you been to Brazil?” people answer that they went to Rio, but they love São Paulo. The urban aesthetic that is anti-aesthetic, the urban profile. São Paulo’s appeal ends up being contrary: things that we think tourists will never like are what they love. AB—Do you get recognized in São Paulo? HC—No. Over here people still question our ability. Modesty aside, I don’t think they get the scale of all the doors we open. We are more respected abroad. That’s why I need to travel to absorb that energy and recognition that put me on a high. But other Brazilians don’t get recognized. There are so many good architects in Brazil and we don’t see their name on any public works. Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Isay Wenfeld weren’t asked to do a World Cup stadium – it’s a shame. AB—In the public sphere, your best known work here in São Paulo is the café of the Municipal Theater, isn’t that right? FC—Yes. We entered that space when the Theater was undergoing restoration. In the end I liked the result a lot. It was a donation to the city, there were no costs. AB—You often emphasize Brazilian inventiveness, their ability to navigate difficult situations and turn scarcity into a driver for creativity. Which popular designers and artists do you most admire? Fernando and Humberto—Espedito Seleiro, from Ceará, Getúlio Damado, from Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro, and Moacir from Chapada dos Veadeiros. FC—They do a lot of things that remind me of my childhood. We used to go to small farms in Brotas and there would always be a swing made only of rope and a piece of wood. I’d pay close attention to the details from one farm to the next. Our father was an agronomist and we would go with him. HC—I like Native Brazilian artifacts. There’s a shop on the Rua Augusta that I pass by every Sunday on my way to the cinema to look at their latest offerings. I think they’re beautiful. AB—What is your biggest wish for the next 25 years? FC—In Brazil, more socially oriented work, like we have already attempted, using NGOs for greater social inclusion. HC—To work more with nature and landscapes. I have a passion for gardens. This coming back to contact with nature is a return to our origins.
“The world has changed, today we are produced by large companies, we are not the small studio we once were. But the same thread runs through – poetry, trying to give objects a soul.”
A Habitarte, 2016
G Café de l’Horloge, 2011
A Campana brothers sculpture over 50 meters high can be found between the two towers forming this venture in Brooklin, São Paulo city. The work helps make this project stand out in interconnecting art, architecture and urbanism.
This Musée D’Orsay café project was inspired by Art Nouveau. The sky blue polyurethane chairs and the plasticized, mirrored panels on the walls invoke a maritime environment for customers.
B Firma Casa, 2011 With an overall concept and landscape creation by the Campanas, and architectural design by Super Limão Studio, the façade of this design store in São Paulo is covered with 2,500 aluminum vases, containing snake tongue plants (sansevieria trifasciata). C Camper, 2010
H—I NEW Hotel, 2011 The NEW Hotel in Athens was created in partnership with 20 architecture students from the University of Thessaly. Chairs, plates and light fittings were made by hand and the restaurant interior is inspired by the Favela Chair. J Bamboo Cathedral, 2013
The New York Camper store is almost entirely covered with natural fibers and plastic synthetic materials. This concept highlights slow design and artisanal workmanship.
Inspired by the abundant style of the Fazenda Catuçaba hotel in São Luiz do Paraitinga, the cathedral is made entirely of oval-shaped bamboo and takes up part of the property’s compound.
D Favela Armchair, 1991
K La Gloriette, 2010
Over 20 years old, this armchair was a landmark in the designers’ career. The small wooden fragments driven into the metal base form an asymmetric structure reminiscent of the aesthetic of a favela (shanty town).
Located in the Hotel du Marc, La Gloriette celebrates Veuve Clicquot champagne with a structure that represents growing vines. In it can be found a niche designed to hold a bucket containing the drink.
E Bastard Sofa, 2014
L Red armchair, 1993-1998
With goose feather stuffing and fabric or leather upholstering, the Bastard sofa can be considered iconoclastic. Its design allows for a free placement of the backrests, which breaks with the structure of conventional models.
This stainless steel structure with red string wrap-around was the Campanas’ first work to be factory produced. An icon of Brazilian design, this piece brings together art and design.
F Iniala Beach House Spa, 2013
M Stedelijk Museum’s-Hertogenbosch, 2013
The Iniala Beach House in Thailand has a movie theater, garden, spa and living room designed by the Campanas. The living room environment is most reminiscent of the brothers’ style with blue and white Thai porcelain walls.
As part of its renovation in May, the Dutch contemporary art museum had its reception, auditorium and store designed by the brothers, who also created a monumental wooden sculpture for its entrance lobby.
All steam ahead—Fernando and Humberto Campana are celebrating their 25 years of career with a full diary. Among other engagements, they are currently preparing a design for Detroit in the USA, where the declining automobile industry has left the vestiges of destruction and abandonment – the base from which they are working; and in Paris they are taking part in revitalizing a block in the Marais, alongside names like Jasper Morrison and Patricia Urquiola. Their recognition is growing abroad, but in Brazil, they say, there is still a way to go. campanas.com.br 171