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José Zanine Caldas - Lounge Chair

Zanine's eye for the inherent beauty of native Brazilian woods, as well as for their technical properties, is reflected in the organic quality of lounge chair. The laid-back character of the chair, enhanced by a warm patina, creates a welcoming and comfortable aspect.

Born on the southern coast of Bahia, in a town called Belmonte, José Zanine Caldas moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1938, to start a workshop producing architectural scale models. Through his work he met a number of iconic Brazilian architects such as Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa.

When plywood was introduced in the Brazilian construction market in the early 1940s, Zanine soon realized this material lent itself perfectly to the mass production of furniture. Along with several partners, he founded the furniture company Moveis Artisticos Z, but left the company in 1952 due to internal conflicts. He continued his work as a scale modeller and furniture designer in São Paulo, where he also became active as a landscape designer, architect, and modelling teacher at the University's Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism. Zanine's innovative architectural designs incorporated the surrounding landscape to create harmonious and peaceful homes, developing a form of "green architecture" before the term became fashionable. However, his work as an architect created great controversy within the Brazilian design community, since he had never obtained an official degree. The matter was resolved when a number of his friends and acquaintances, including Lucio Costa, ensured he was awarded an honorary degree.

Zanine Caldas returned to Bahia in the 1950s, and there became inspired by the way local craftsmen carved canoes and rowboats from felled trees. He started to develop a more elemental approach of furniture manufacture, by chiselling pieces directly from large logs of wood, creating a distinct signature style with these organic, sculptural pieces.

His designs were exhibited in the celebrated exhibition Zanine: l'Architecte et la Forêt in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1989 and have been shown in the Museu de Arte Moderna of Rio (MAM-RJ) and the Museu de Arte of São Paulo (MASP). In 2019, the architect's 100th birthday was celebrated; with the opening of his own museum in Nova Viçosa designed by Marcio Kogan, the launch of a variant of the Z furniture at Etel, the publication of a large monograph to appear towards the end of the year, and the addition of several pieces to the design section in the new wing of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.

The work of José Zanine Caldas is a testament to the power of natural wood and its beauty as a material. A pioneer in the field of forest preservation and ecology, Zanine Caldas' intent was to plant a new tree every time another was cut down for one of his projects. He wrote several essays on the relationship between Brazil's forests and its people, drawing inspiration and knowledge from architectural history, philosophy and local folk tales.

Object information

Pequi wood
Date and place:
Brazil, ca. 1968
62 x 52 x 78 cm
Private collection, Belgium, 2016-2019; Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp, Belgium, since 2016; Private collection Mr. Antonio Cruz, Joatinga, Brazil; Acquired in 1968, directly from the artist.

CHEN A., Brazil Modern: The Rediscovery of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Furniture, New York 2016.

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