Sergio Rodrigues (Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 1927 – Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 2014)
Sergio Rodrigues was a furniture designer and architect. In search of the Brazilian identity, Rodrigues broke away from design constraints and tried to harmoniously integrate the three areas in which we worked; architecture, design, and drawing.
He joined the National School of Architecture of the University of Brazil (FNA) in 1947. In 1949, he worked as an assistant professor for David Xavier de Azambuja. In 1951, David Xavier de Azambuja invited Rodrigues to participate in elaborating the Civic Center of Curitiba. The architects Olavo Redig de Campos (1906-1984) and Flávio Regis do Nascimento also collaborated on the project. It was through these contacts that Rodrigues met Lucio Costa (1902-1998).
Rodrigues graduated with an architecture degree in 1951. He moved to Curitiba, where he founded Móveis Artesanal Paranaense, in partnership with the Hauner brothers. In 1954, the Hauner brothers hired him to lead the interior architecture section of the new company, Forma S.A, in São Paulo. During this tenure, he came into contact with other renowned designers such as Gregori Warchavchik (1896-1972) and Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992).
Sergio’s work came at a time of great change for Brazil. Brazil was investing in federal capital, and the Brazilian people were experiencing a cultural awakening in fine arts, music (Bossa Nova), and architecture (the construction of Brasília). Sergio sensed that modern Brazilian architecture lacked contemporary furniture. Sergio’s creations, intended to make modern, comfortable furniture suited to the Brazilian tropical climate, availing of wood and leather, soon led him to the new capital where his furniture was ordered on a large scale and taken to Brasília. Along with essential furniture designers in Brazil, such as Joaquim Tenreiro, and Zanine Caldas, Sergio Rodrigues has played a decisive role in the history of Brazilian furniture. He is the author of various works and always developed furniture consistent with the evolution of architecture during his life.
In 1955, he resigned from Forma, and returned to Rio de Janeiro. Eager to commercialize the production of Brazilian design he opened Oca in 1955. The decades of the 50s and 60s were particularly prolific for Rodrigues. He designed the Mole armchairs, and a variation of the Mole armchair was awarded first at the Concorso Internazionale Del Mobile in1961 in Italy. His design was chosen from a list of 400 designers, and this victory confirmed his international status as a world-class designer. The ISA produced the chair in Italy and exported to several countries under the name Sheriff. It was comfortable and robust and was considered a symbol of national design. Rodrigues intended to design a piece of furniture that expressed national identity. The armchair was associated with a Brazilian way of sitting, inspired by the relaxed and lethargic Brazillian lifestyle. His work is said to have emphasized the relaxation, informality, and rejection of a new lifestyle of the 1960’s youth. Many believe that Rodrigues was successful in his endeavour to symbolize the Brazilian identity.
The CD-7, or Lucio Costa chair, was made of solid wood with straw seat and named after the architect, a great promoter of Rodrigues’ work. The PL-7Jockey PL-7Jockey, or Oscar Niemeyer armchair, was also constructed with a wooden frame. This chair has braided straw arms carved as unique pieces, with an anatomical design, and constructed through thoughtful consideration of Lucio Costa’s work. However, influences from the works of the Danish architect and designer Finn Juhl (1912-1989) can also be seen in the design.
In 1958, Sergio received an invitation to conceptualize pieces of furniture for the, then under construction, national congress building in Brasilia. For the waiting room, he designed the PO-3armchair, which was later named Beto. Beto was composed of a chrome frame, hardwood arms and seat, and a foam backrest. In 1960 he worked on a project with Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) and built the table Itamaraty for Brasilia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Darcy Ribeiro, then rector of UnB, invited Rodrigues to design the seats of the Candangos Auditorium, a building designed by the architect Alcides da Rocha Miranda (1909-2001). A similar design of his is the armchair created in 1965 for the Auditorium Instituto dos Arquitectos do Brasil (IAB/DF), in Brasília, which gained an honorable mention in the IAB contest that year, and was used in several Brazilian auditoriums, such as the Anhembi and the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp).
Another famous armchair was the Tonico, created in 1963 for Meia-Pataca, with a roll pad for neck support supported by adjustable straps. In 1973 he designed the Lightweight Kilin PL-104 armchair, made of solid wood and canvas or leather for the seat and backrest.
He also promoted the preliminary stages of the first studies of SR2 – System of Industrialization of Prefabricated Modulated Elements for Construction of Housing Architecture of wood. The prototypes of the buildings are exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro (MAM/RJ). The system was successfully used in the construction of the Yacht Club of Brasilia and two lodging pavilions and restaurants of the University of Brasilia (UnB), in 1962, as well hundreds of units being produced and assembled in the Amazon rainforest.
Dedicated to marketing furniture produced in series at affordable prices, in 1963, he founded the company Meia-Pataca, which was active until 1969. In the late 1960s, he sold Oca. He set up his own studio in Rio de Janeiro, where he worked mainly as an interior architect for homes, offices, and hotels and worked on projects for the Central Bank in Brasilia and the headquarters of Editora Bloch in Rio de Janeiro. The innovative designer received the Lapiz de Plata Prize at the Buenos Aires Architecture Biennial for his work in 1987. In 2006, he won 1st place in the furniture category in the 20th edition of the Design award in São Paulo, with his armchair Diz.
In the 1980s, he developed projects for hotels, such as the DAAV chair and the Júlia armchair. In the 1990s, he continued to design furniture, such as the Chico and Adolpho chairs, made for the meeting room of Editora Bloch. Rodrigues remained consistent in his design style throughout his 50-year career.
Upon examination, it is evident that Rodrigues’ preferred choice of material was wood, which he often combined with leather or straw and other natural fibers, such as cotton or canvas, and occasionally with metal. Oca, which started as a modest interior architecture studio, is now held in high esteem and is often referred to when discussing the development of modern furniture in Brazil. Oca integrated contemporary design into the new wave of modernization that Brazil experienced in the mid-twentieth century.