With an illustrious architect and designer for a parent, Brazilian product designer Zanini de Zanine has been steeped in the world of design from a very young age. His edgy and contemporary twists to everyday furniture show that although his ethics and designs are inspired by his father, they are uniquely his own.
Award-winning Brazilian designer Zanini de Zanine has an impressive pedigree to live up to. He is the son of José Zanine Caldas (1919-2001), one of Brazil’s best known architects and designers. Caldas was known for his modernist designs and for championing the cause of local craftsmanship and materials. Zanine has certainly inherited this trait from his father – his major work today is with recycled and reusable materials.
Zanine was born in 1978 and grew up watching his father work. A career in design was perhaps inevitable. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in Industrial Design. From the following year, he began designing solid wood furniture with “pieces of demolition – columns, beams and posts of old houses” and called this collection “Contemporary Carpentry”.
From 2005, he began using ethical wood and other materials like plastic, acrylic and parts of other manufactured products into his furniture. One of his first breakthrough designs was the Giocco Rocking Horse (2009) for Alle (Brazil), a reincarnation of the traditional rocking horse but made out of acrylic and cast in a contemporary shape. The fascination with rocking horses has continued over the years with a stunning new design in steel for Tolix France (2011) called Balance (Poltronabalanço).
Zanine’s preoccupation with using reclaimed wood is first seen in the Balanço Chaise (2010) where he used reclaimed Ipê wood to create a sensuous shape that curves along with the body. The original ‘flaws’ in the wood, like nail holes, were left intact, reflecting the heritage of the wood.
Several other designs have since followed including the Prisma Stool (2010) from demolition wood and the Inflated Woods Armchair (Limited Edition, 2013) for Cappellini. The Inflated Woods series comes in three designs – armchair, bench and stool and is as incongruous as its name. Reclaimed Ipê and Jacaranda wood rescued from houses that were being demolished form the basis of this line. The ‘Inflated’ bit comes from using contemporary carpentry techniques to make traditional wood feel warm and comfortable, which includes changing its shape from a flat one to something that is more curved and moulded to the human body.
In an interesting counterpoint, Zanine also enjoys working with new technology and experimenting with materials. The elegant Moeda armchair (2010) uses sheet metal webbings “left over from the production of discontinued 10¢ Brazilian coins.” His latest designs which include the aluminium TREZ Armchair (Cappellini, 2013) and the TISS Armchair (Studio Zanini, 2013) are contemporary beauties.
The Trez is inspired by Brazilian culture and pays homage to the work of two Brazilian artists – the sculptor Amilcar de Castro, who was famous for his skill in cutting and bending steel, and Joaquim Tenreiro, the father of modern Brazilian design who “began everything with his three legged chair.” The Trez is simple and playful, almost child-like in its appeal.
The TISS series, on the other hand, is made out of Tauari wood and natural caning. The elegant designs are reincarnations of traditional Portuguese chairs and are designed for the dining table.
Zanine’s growth as a designer is reflected in his new shapes for armchairs and storage systems. The Chair Joa (2012) has a traditional shape, yet that little twist in the arms gives it that edge.
The Espasso Armchair (2013) has an intriguing, futuristic silhouette, made more unexpected because it is in wood, when you would expect a design like that to be clad in a metallic sheen instead.
The plastic Modulo 7 range of storage systems (2010) is the perfect mix-and-match solution to a tight space. It can be conjured up into various shapes including bookshelves and a side-table. Zanine’s designs can also be found in other utilitarian items besides furniture.
The Kony Planter (2011) is made out of recyclable plastic in a single textured piece and is available in five bright colours. The Flora Pendant Lamp (Slamp, 2013) is inspired by the lush Brazilian forests, while the design for the Escoras candle stands for Riva (2013) is taken from the roots of mangroves.
In September 2013, for the first time, Zanine’s work was exhibited along with that of his father’s outside Brazil. The exhibition, held in New York, showcased Caldas’ unique designs and several pieces made out of reclaimed wood that Zanine has worked on, in collaboration with carpenters who worked with his father.
Caldas’ work lives on in Studio Zanini where a few of his iconic designs are still produced, approved by the family. Zanine, with his focus on modern design created out of eco-friendly and sustainable materials, is keeping the flag flying high.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer