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Lisbon Design Week — Redefining Portuguese Design
Lisbon Design Week — Redefining Portuguese Design

Lisbon has always been a vibrant melting pot, where diverse cultures blend seamlessly, creating a rich and dynamic atmosphere. This cultural fusion, while enriching, also adds complexity to forming a cohesive identity. It is fulfilling to see how Lisbon Design Week embraces this diversity, curating a multitude of design perspectives in its second mature edition this year.

Portugal has always been well known for its architecture, with names like Aires Mateus and Álvaro Siza being automatic connotations. The architecture here tells a story of its cultural heritage—structures that are simple yet profound, blending with the natural world. This architectural ethos mirrors a broader cultural trait: an intrinsic connection to nature and the land.

This deep connection is the driving force behind Lisbon Design Week, a festival that is redefining Portuguese design. What began as a small, intimate celebration has blossomed into a mature design event, encapsulating the essence of local creativity.

What’s unique about this part of Europe is the growing appreciation for native resources, empowering local designers to preserve traditional crafts and promote sustainability. The warm, soft, and organic feel of Portuguese design is a testament to this commitment, creating a sensory experience that is both authentic and deeply moving.

Photo by Irina Boersma

Luso Collective was founded with a simple mission: to create a common ground for Portuguese creatives, uniting them under one name to be heard globally. This initiative emerged from a strong desire to introduce a highly curated approach to Design Week, with a focus on Lisbon-based creators in its first edition. The first participants are Studio THER, Macheia, Garce & Dimofski, and Studio Gameiro.

The name ‘LUSO’ draws its significance from the ancient Lusitanians, the people who once inhabited the region that now comprises Portugal and parts of Spain. The term reflects a rich tapestry of Portuguese history, culture, and art, embodying a spirit deeply rooted in the country’s heritage.

The first inauguration celebration of the design collective thanks to special partnership with creative agency LX.XXX took place in historic settings of BEATO 30, the former homeware factory in Lisbon.

UTIL, a Portuguese brand renowned for creating ultra-utilitarian and minimalist furniture from folded sheets of aluminum and steel, made an impression at Lisbon Design Week. Founders Manuel Amaral Netto and Tomás Carvalhas showcased their latest collaboration with the German studio Geckeler Michels: a modular shelving system called Palco. This design skillfully combines simplicity with functionality, encapsulating the true essence of UTIL and adding a distinctive touch to the Portuguese design scene.

De La Espada, a prominent Portuguese furniture design brand, has built a 30-year legacy of high quality and meticulous craftsmanship. Their strategic collaborations with celebrated designers such as Neri & Hu and Ilse Crawford have solidified their position in the international design arena. The brand is known for its philosophy of creating the highest quality pieces available, carefully selecting designers with whom they cooperate to ensure a process that leaves no room for chance. This approach has led to the creation of minimalist products, including the well-known Colombo chair by Matthew Hilton.

At the recent Lisbon Design Week, De La Espada unveiled their latest piece created by their in-house team of De La Espada Atelier designers: the Arts and Crafts cabinet system showcased at the Ojo Gallery. This special piece of furniture draws inspiration from the archives of traditional Portuguese cabinetry and features a sophisticated mix of techniques and materials. Textile artist Catarina Riccabona contributed the woven panels, while ceramic artist Amande Haeghen crafted the handles, merging diverse disciplines into a cohesive piece that honors the craft makers and their techniques in first place.

Photo by Ines Silva Sa

The concept of this meeting is inevitably exciting for everyone in the design world. How rare and beautiful was this moment? Only Kengo Kuma and Álvaro Siza know. The Japanese architect was visiting Portugal because of his recent projects there: Matadouro in Porto and the renovation of Centro de Arte Moderna in Lisbon. According to the true events unfolding, Kengo requested a meeting with Álvaro due to his endless respect for Siza's works.

And there is nothing more exciting than a meeting of these two gigantic figures together under one roof - and the roof was special because it was in Porto in Álvaro Siza's studio. Both architects have deep respect for each other's works, and the organizational part was moderated by João Pereira, CEO of MOR Design.

Photo by Ines Silva Sa

Kengo Kuma presented his new aiTai chairs, prototypes that he saw for the first time during this meeting. The aiTai chairs, named from a Japanese phrase meaning "I want to see you," are crafted with three legs, wooden structures, and fabric seats. Kuma emphasized that these chairs symbolize friendship and connectivity, not just in their function but in their very design ethos.

Álvaro Siza, on the other hand, showcased his Alcântara armchair, a piece he designed for MOR in 2020. Known for his minimalist and timeless approach, Siza shared his philosophy on chair design, highlighting the challenge of creating something new and meaningful in a field with such a vast history. For Siza, a chair must both be different and inherently recognizable as a chair.

Roca Talents

At LDW 2024, Roca, in partnership with Lisbon Design Week, invited 20 emerging talents from an open call to showcase their work at the prestigious Roca Lisboa Gallery. The "Young Design Generation" exhibition highlighted the future of design, focusing on experimentation and aesthetics. Notable pieces included:

Luisa Hentsch's "Reflecting Bodies" is an experimental object created from a single folded metal sheet, originally part of her diploma from the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe in Germany.  

Rosana Sousa's Vaga Chair is crafted from recycled solid walnut and oak, this chair exemplifies eco-conscious design by repurposing discarded wood into a graphic pattern, addressing environmental challenges through responsible design decisions.

Photo by Pedro Moura Simao

‘Terra Nossa’ and ‘Materia Imperfecta’ in Aires Mateus Arquivo 

French designer Sam Baron, based in Portugal since 2001, curated 'Terra Nossa' - 'Our Earth' exhibition - a selection of terracotta artefacts displayed on a unique 14-metre-long table at the Arquivo Manuel Aires Mateus in Campo de Ourique.

Photo by Pedro Moura Simao

Adding spice to the presentation was its second part in the patio of Arquivo, "Materia Imperfecta," an exhibition tutored by students from the Master's in Product Development at EASD Valencia. This exhibition showcased the beauty of imperfection in terracotta, featuring ceramic projects created in collaboration with MUT Design. The projects used existing molds, manufacturing surpluses, and extruded clay, promoting sustainability in design by giving a second life to materials. The displayed pieces conveyed experimentation, the unfinished results of immediate processes, the wear and tear of time, and the random behavior of glazes and materials in the kiln. Showcasing the versatile world of imperfection and the beauty that lies within terracotta material.

MOB Projects is an international design incubator based in Lisbon, known for fostering interdisciplinary collaborations. It invited both emerging and established artists and architects from around the world to create innovative furniture pieces. This year's theme, "On Family," explored the passage of time and celebrated diversity, equality, and freedom through a collection of both new and existing pieces.

Founded by Eduardo Corales, Javier Toro Blum, and Piedad Aguilar, MOB Projects aims to blur the lines between art, design, and architecture. Their exhibition emphasized the collective and domestic aspects of furniture design, inviting the audience to engage with the tactile and experimental nature of the pieces, thus enriching the Lisbon design community with their free-spirited and inclusive approach.

Branca Design, a well-established Portuguese furniture brand, is recognized for its contemporary and minimalist creations. The brand unveiled a new piece, the BICA Dining Table, at their studio space during the Lisbon Design Week. This table system, designed by Manuel Aires Mateus, was initially developed for the redesign of the iconic Lisbon restaurant Bica do Sapato. The BICA table draws inspiration from the vernacular furniture of Portuguese taverns, embodying a subtle yet thoughtful redesign. The architect envisioned the table to be as light as possible, characterized by a single, clean drawing line. It features a robust metal structure encased in thin solid wood corners, with a tabletop available in either solid wood or stone.

The "Campo" Collection, designed by Sam Baron and handmade by Toino Abel, premiered at Lisbon Design Week. This collection was born from Passa Ao Futuro’s Plant Based Design Residency, which brings together contemporary designers and traditional Portuguese artisans. Over three months, Baron and Abel worked with soft-rush (junco) to create pieces that highlight the natural beauty of the material and the artisans' craftsmanship. Supported by the EU’s Creative Europe Programme and De La Espada, this project emphasizes responsibility in navigating the design world and fosters a deeper connection to the craft and its creators. —

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