The Campana Brothers’ Improvisational Design

An exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum celebrates the career of the Campana brothers

The Campana brothers, Fernando and Humberto, are without a doubt two of the most prominent Brazilian designers out there. Until February 24th, much of their work will be on display in North America as part of the traveling exhibition Antibodies: The Works of Fernando and Humberto Campana, at the Palm Springs Art Museum in southern California. The career-spanning show (provided by the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany) includes many of the brothers’ best known pieces, along with prototypes, artwork, interviews and other related material.

The brothers have spent thirty years experimenting with designs that embody the colorful character of their home country. Their style of creating is best exemplified by their trademark use of found materials, which deliberately focuses on the possibilities of each material, only considering form and function secondarily.


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The Sushi Chair. Courtesy Edra.

The 2010 book Campana Brothers: Complete Works (So Far) is another career-spanning collection of their work, and provides in one volume the most comprehensive look at this eccentric body of work available. Both collections prove that the most striking examples of the Campanas’ design were created through an improvisational approach to design. This has allowed them to experiment with and reinterpret the use of materials during the construction of each project. One notable creation, the sushi chair, began as an exploration of the use of upholstery. It is made out of discarded scraps of fabric, foam and carpet, which have been bundled together to form a seat, the beauty of the design originating in the chaos of its provenience.


Campana Brothers: Complete Works (So Far) book cover. Courtesy

The brothers work out of their native Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they first began their experiments together in the mid 1980s. They use a diverse range of simple materials available on hand, and with them create designs that have earned a significant amount international attention. Among the more surprising materials to find their way into these designs are bubble wrap, tires, and stuffed animals.

The unique style of the Campanas is no accident; their process intentionally takes its cues from haphazardly constructed favelas that were once built all over Sao Paulo, and the colorfully checkered nature of their home country. Perhaps the best known work of the Campanas, the Vermelha chair, is an immensely tactile design formed out of a seemingly precarious tangle of red rope, perfectly capturing the apparent spontaneity of their designs.


The Vermelha Chair. Courtesy Edra.

The book itself reflects this ethos; the cover is made from rough textile and stitched with colorful thread. Inside, we are taken on a tour of the different phases of their work – from the first experiments in the 80s up until the present day. Going through the entire volume reveals an unabashedly varied body of work, the scope of which shows the brothers for what they are: always seeking new uses for the old, the ordinary, and the banal.

Brian Bruegge is an undergraduate student at Fordham University, majoring in communications and media studies, and history. He also studies visual arts and environmental policy, and has previously written for several other websites and publications on a range of topics.

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