THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL
The Campana brothers on style and São Paulo
by Eduardo Graça/photography Victor Affaro
Not more than ten minutes. That’s how long one can talk about trends in the Brazilian capital of style without hearing the name “Campana” crop up. After all, it is Estúdio Campana, located in the Santa Cecília neighborhood of downtown São Paulo, that created the famous ‘Red Chair’ for Italian company Edra. The studio is also the birthplace of other iconic pieces, including the Disney Chairs (a partnership with Uncle Walt’s powerhouse) and several works for Swarovski, O Lucce, Fontana Arte, Capellini Progestto Oggetto and Alessi.
Humberto Campana is the brother best known for his manual skills. He focuses on the artisanal aspects of their work. Fernando Campana, meanwhile, concentrates on the abstraction of their projects - the elaboration of concepts that will be developed by the Estúdio’s nine workers.
“25 years after leaving the architecture school, I am finally ready to admit that academia gave me this capacity of vision, this notion of proportion, light and space,” says Fernando. Aided by Humberto’s magical hands, Fernando juxtaposes elements to achieve their main goal: “Interfere, for real, with people’s lives.”
Currently, the brothers are designing a diverse range of projects. They include the Royal Olympic, Athen’s coolest hotel; the set for the new Marseilles Ballet show (an adaptation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis); the concept of London’s new Camper store; and a winter exhibition at the prestigious Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.
“Our basic principle at the hotel is recycling,” says WHO? “We are going to absorb the trash, the demolition originated after the place was rebuilt two years ago, to create, in a paradox, something clean. And with the ballet, our desire is to dream. We are eager to literally bring design to the stage, doing something closer to the Corallo Chair, the one we created for Edra, with its anti-symmetrical body, its lines floating in the air, so the dancers can move between the objects.”
The Cooper-Hewitt show, which will open to the public this February, is a study of the representations of the twist in a two-dimensional space. “To do this, we will use fabric, several objects, hair artifacts, and, last but not least, furniture,” he explains.
The Campanas’ twist is one Brazilian aspect of their work. But ask them what is really brasileiro in their work, and they come up with something more nebulous.
“Our work is undoubtedly Brazilian due to our spontaneity and our capacity to adapt, which was developed as a reaction to the chronic economic and political instability that we faced during the majority of the last century,” says WHO? “We realize that improvisation is not a synonym to either laziness or lack of efficiency. Our art is Brazilian because it is acute and never surrounds itself with either rules or commandments. Brazil is a very funny place. Here, even if you try hard, it is impossible to become a square person.”
Despite their success, the Campanas say they will never leave São Paulo, the most populated city in South America, bursting with 11 million people. Their city, they claim, epitomizes the Brazilian ethos.