Future Classic | Favela Armchair

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    The Favela armchair has become extremely popular with architects and designers who appreciate a sense of the ‘hand’ as much as an innovative idea.

    The Favela armchair appears to be literally thrown together with timber offcuts. However, this armchair, designed by Fernando and Humberto Campana, known as the Campana Brothers, was created with leading artisans from Edra, with each armchair taking over a week to complete.

    Designed in 1991, when the world was experiencing a recession, the armchair was inspired by the favelas (a Brazilian word for slum or shanty town) found in Brazil, where the Campana Brothers reside. Humberto, a self-taught artist with a law degree, established the studio in 1983 with his brother Fernando, who has a degree in architecture. Together they have worked with Edra, producing some of the most novel and highly publicised furniture creations worldwide, with enormous wit, talent and thinking well outside the square.

    Made from wood used to build the favelas, with each piece hand glued, the first Favela armchair was produced near a fruit market. As stated at the time by Humberto, “I used glue and nails to connect one piece of wood to another with no rationality. The only rationality in that project was to construct irrationality”. This future classic, which is now represented in major design museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, exemplifies the brothers’ approach – using simple materials, whether cardboard, rope or layers of felt, refashioned by leading craftspeople.

    The prototype was made in the Campana Brother’s studio without using expensive machinery, just taking each piece of wood and gluing it together in a random manner. And unlike most armchairs that are identical, each Favela armchair, whether made of pine or teak (the latter for use outdoors) is unique.

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    The Edra Favela armchair | Imagery courtesy of Edra

    The Favela armchair has become a point of interest for architects and designers worldwide. Alexander &CO. principal Jeremy Bull used the Favela armchair for the Pacific House. Placed in the dining area, it is a permanent fixture in the corner of the room, seen as a sculptural object rather than used around the dining table. “I don’t see the Favela as a ‘chair’ per se, but more as form that enriches the space,” Jeremy says, referring to the sleeker and more refined finishes that appear both throughout the house and in the dining room.

    The house includes oak timber floors, with polished plaster walls and crazy-patterned stone floors in the kitchen, the latter loosely creating a ‘dialogue’ to the irregular-shaped timber used for the Favela armchair. The dining room in the Pacific House, with its oak-beamed ceiling, also creates a counterpoint to the rough timber of the armchair. “I love the way the Campana Brothers create newness from oldness, producing magical designs in the process,” Jeremy says.

    At a time when the world is going through uncertainty, as it did in 1991, it’s timely to reflect on the Favela armchair, one that speaks of the favelas but also of hope for the future. And with an ever-growing interest in the handmade and sense of craft in our highly technological world, the Favela armchair shows what can be truly achieved with imagination as much as the artistry required to assemble the hundreds of timber pieces that go into producing each one of these armchairs.

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edra's future classics