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Caldas the precursor

The architect and designer José Zanine Caldas, who is not well known to the public but has been decorated by the French Academy of Architecture, is on display at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris until April 22. Under the name “Denuncia”, this retrospective pays tribute to the multidisciplinary creator and his environmental commitment with 90 pieces on display.

Caldas became a leading figure in Brazilian modernist design, making architectural models at the age of 20. He worked alongside Oscar Niemeyer and trained on his own in architecture and design.


A creation in three stages


A decade later, the self-taught man started creating and selling plywood furniture. In an effort to optimize the material, he innovated by cutting the previously molded material, reducing waste and manufacturing high-end but affordable furniture. This period of Paulist industrial production, pioneer at the time, is known as “Moveis Artisticos Z”.


But in 1964, Caldas fled the dictatorial military regime and Sao Paulo for Bahia, his native land. The lush forests of the region inspire him and Caldas enters his second creative cycle, “Moveis Denuncia” (which could be translated as denunciatory furniture). Brutalist, these pieces are carved directly in solid wood, often recovered, and show the strong link between the artist and nature. The architect reinvents the construction of habitats made from demolition materials or dead trees.


If the Musée des Arts Décoratifs devoted a retrospective to him in 1989, “Zanine, the architect and the forest”, the Carpenters Workshop Gallery exhibits pieces to be discovered or revisited without further ado, all against a backdrop of Caldas’ architectural photographs.

Cécile Papapietro-Matsuda

Carpenters Workshop Gallery, 54 rue de la Verrerie 75004 Paris