If you think about it in the context of design, Brazil is a lot like America: A vast, relatively young country with a tiny cadre of contemporary designers struggling both to step out of the long shadow of their mid-century forebears, and to create objects in a near-industrial vacuum. But you won’t hear Brazilian designer Brunno Jahara complaining — having lived in dozens of European countries, worked under Jaime Hayon at Fabrica, and run a freelance business from Amsterdam before moving back to São Paulo a few years ago, he credits his native country as being the catalyst for his newfound success. “In Brazil I have all the freedom I didn’t have in Europe, because there’s a whole historical background over there that holds you to making things in a certain way,” says the 32-year-old, who’s been all over the design press in the past year and twice showed work at Design/Miami Basel. “Here you have so much space, and everything is new. And it’s so crazy, everything you see on the street each day and the mix of cultures — it’s really inspiring.”
Jahara’s nomadic tendencies were instilled in him at a young age, when he moved with his ex-fashion model mother and structural engineer father to the US, England, Germany, and Poland, all by age 8. By the time the family returned to Brazil, he could no longer speak Portuguese. He stayed until he was 23, living in Rio and studying design in Brasilia, then left again to continue his studies at the University of Venice before moving on to Fabrica. If Italy taught him about the intricacies of manufacturing and the marketplace and the “Italian pleasure in shapes and colors,” his time in Amsterdam — where his mother still lives — gave the playful side of his work an intellectual counterpoint.
He brought all of those influences with him to São Paulo, where he now works out of a three-floor building with a “design lab” in the basement and his home on top, but these days he primarily identifies with a Brazilian aesthetic: “We have this exotic flavor somehow,” Jahara laughs. As part of what he believes is a new movement of young Brazilian designers in the post-Campana generation, he’s taken a similar interest in reclaimed materials and in collaborating with the country’s industry. A project he began recently entails helping a large stationery manufacturer figure out how to use a new material they developed out of recycled and extruded Tetra Pak, which he’ll spin into a full series of paper goods later this year. That’s in addition to the limited-edition design objects, the furniture lines, and the scheme for a massive social housing development he keeps tucked away in his desk, waiting for the time in the near future when he can turn it into reality. In the meantime, we interviewed Jahara to find out more about his point of view.
Design object you wish you’d made: “The lighter. It’s such a magical thing to create an instant flame from an object.”
If you had an unlimited budget for a single piece, what would you make? “Maybe a whole new planet. We’re living in a really chaotic moment, everything’s happening so fast, we have tsunamis and all this pollution — there’s so much that needs to be cleaned up and fixed on this planet that it’s probably worthwhile to think about designing a whole new one.”
Thing you love most about São Paulo: “The Ibirapuera Park with all the gardens from Burle Marx, and the museum of architecture there by Niemeyer. It reminds me of Brasilia. You have the modern art museum, the planetarium, Fashion Week is there — it’s an amazing complex and it’s all right in the middle of a garden.”
Thing you hate most about it: “Cars. São Paulo is on the verge of being stopped by traffic. So we need a proper planning and design of transport solutions here. I cycle usually when possible.”