Lisbon by Design – Palacete Gomes Freire

Hal Foster, in his famous book “Design and Crime, and other diatribes”, 2002, recalled Bruce Mau, and the design principles that this designer defended in the late 1980s. It was with Mau that, as a manifesto, the term “Life Style” came about, and its closed approach to life, as a practice based on ethics.

The Lisbon by Design event recalls this commitment to ethics, and compatibility with life, in harmony with society and its various protagonists.

Phrases such as “drawing the invisible”, or “We are not above or separated from nature” clearly reflect Mau’s concern with environmental problems, sustainability issues, and people’s living conditions.

Hal Foster, however, rebels in the book “Design and Crime”, or at least questions himself, about the indifference manifested at the beginning of the 21st century, by the currents of design, regarding their own operational boundaries, and project practice. One would say that Foster doesn’t understand why designers have gone back a century and glorified the Art Nouveau period in the name of total design, less committed to industrialism.

In fact, it is precisely this softening of barriers between disciplines, namely between art and design, design and crafts, major arts and minor arts, popular or folk, that the designer, as well as the artist, could aim to reach the point that we have actually reached – although there is still a lot to do – and that means being able to witness now, with the Lisbon by Design exhibition, held at Palacete Gomes Freire, the testimony of the long work that designers, artisans and artists have carried out, in a more sustainable design, linked to life, to the environment and to people themselves.

If there was a prejudice linked to the definition of the various areas, we would still be ignoring people’s needs, the sustainability of their communities, the identity of their groups, their livelihood. An ethically correct style of design for life presupposes not neglecting, or repressing, people, regardless of their beliefs, cultures, ethnicities and religions. Design is an agent that can serve, as a tool, to dilute social discrepancies, and consequently generate wealth where it is most needed.One of the areas where design can make a contribution is in the tourism sector. I once wrote that a country strong in this sector could not guarantee its viability if it did not have a strong link with its traditions and origins. Otherwise, how can people attract other people if in the land where they reside, they only can offer the same that exists in all other countries?This exhibition also reflects concerns embedded in issues of globalization, identity and sustainability of local communities. Otherwise, how can communities achieve some well-being, and some happiness, as well as the feeling of belonging to a society, to a place, if their cultural references disappear, and are replaced by others?Design, therefore, and if properly applied, can also be an agent of support for heritage, whether material, immaterial, mobile or immovable cohabits. Gone are the days when there was a certain modesty regarding people, and their printed values ​​from the past, stories or incisions that reminded them of other times. It was said, according to Loos, that what was superfluous should be suppressed in the design. If even today our critical thinking was based on this principle, we would not have at the moment design pieces that result of designers’ collaboration with artisans. We would not have a fusion of languages ​​that allow the multiplication of ideas. Design continued to respond, in a condition totally subordinated to the industry, to the needs of profit, of easy consumption. And therefore, little close to nature and the preservation of the environment.A look at the service of industry, reductionist in terms of the form of things, rationalist, sterile, as Marcel Wanders once said, repressed, for decades, the possibility of meeting new solutions for objects, with regard to environmental issues is minimum. Little by little, the economistic and industrialist imposition of design, especially in the 20th century, and which persists like a disease to this day, impregnated the general opinion that minimalist forms are the politically correct ones, and that any contamination outside the reductionist scope is pure derivation, that must be punished. The perfection of industrial objects, without blemishes, scratches, without admitting error, asymmetry, or abrasions, damaged our perception of design, and inculcated guilt on us. This industrialist thinking, serial, always the same, also distanced us from the diversity of nature. It molded us to an idea that what was right was what was predictable, what was rationalized. Nature is varied, but the anthropocentric view of man’s superiority over all other living beings, maintained for centuries, has led to the extinction of the diversity of nature and its multiple species. Fortunately, the 21st century has brought another feeling to drawing and design projects.The Lisbon by Design exhibition reveals a body of work that reflects these concerns, and a sense of ethical responsibility towards society, traditions, nature, local values, and the identity of communities. Mirroring this vision, we first have, for example, the pieces created by Sam Baron, in a residency promoted by the partnership Passa ao Futuro & Fundação Ricardo Espírito Santo. Upon entering the room, where the projects are located, we can observe the sinuous and delicate shapes of the Feuillade Wall lamp. The glowing leaves and stems are made of iron, tinplate and gold, also made possible by the collaboration of artisans António Almeida and Clara Sales, Paula Braz, Ivo Ferreira.In the same room, next to piece drawn by Baron, we get Gardienne, in brass and carved leather, created by Marre Moerel, and developed with the help of the artisans Beatriz Canha, António Almeida and Ivo Ferreira. We also find, very well inserted in space, and in harmonious articulation with the other pieces from the Passa ao Futuro room, the pieces Das Tuch, in wool, by Daniel Heer and Cian McConn, which had the collaboration of the artisans Helena Rosa and Fátima Mestre; as well as the Opium Bed by Marco Sousa Santos, made in painted iron and carved leather, with the collaboration of artisans Teresa Romão and Beatriz Canha.Still in the room, occupied by the editor Passa ao Futuro, we can see, fixed by the ceiling and on top of the beautiful piece Beverly, made by Emmanuel Babled, an impressive piece created by Célia Esteves, made in palm, and called Caclé I. The piece, like a tapestry, is woven, apparently, without a precise geometric order. The palm, intertwined by artisan Sónia Mendez, seems to develop as if it were a living organism, it develops fluidly, at random, making us wonder what might be its final outcome. It is a truly incredible piece, which vogue around the indefinite, in what can hardly be named, and which is what most gives cohesion and uniqueness between the different pieces, creating a bridge. Will it be design, art or craft? Caclé I is an immersive work that transports the room to another reflective space, to other possible narratives.In this room you can still see Tempo, a piece by Christian Haas, in which the designer uses stone, stainless steel, and baracejo.The Analora Gallery brought Vanessa Barragão’s imagiary wool gardens to the event. Pieces that, like the work Myocos, present us to a clear allusion to vegetation and marine flora. Once again, nature is the motto of Barragão’s work, with emphasis on the three-dimensional tapestry, in which, in everyone’s imagination, one feels like going around the exotic and fine flowers that emerge from the base, and transport us to an art nouveau imaginary, and perhaps a paradise long lost.The designer’s concern with using exclusively recycled wool is highlighted.The designer also used the shape of corals, and, in a press conference, stressed that she used color to emphasize life, avoiding white, since this is the color that represents the phase of death in corals.The pieces by António Vasconcelos Lapa integrate, with their color and brightness, in a harmonious way the whole of the gallery, and communicate, with their organicity, duly with the pieces by Barragão, among others. In a gallery that also features artists Almerinda Gillet, Fabienne Auzolle, Iva Viana, Catherine Wilkening, and Thomas Mendonça.Also in the exhibitions that make part of the Lisbon by Design space, we get Flores projects, by Textile Studio, the Luumi lamps, the ceramics by Pedro Pacheco, in collaboration with Edward Schilling, the architects of the Estado Bruto studio, the wool fabrics inspired by traditional techniques by João Bruno, the Ria Formosa project, by Felipa Almeida and her daughter, in which the Ponta da Culatra tapestry stands out, and the project by Henriette Arcelin, especially the Murice ceramics, developed in partnership with the Lamego Widow.Tomaz Viana’s pieces accentuate the history of design, prefigure the technical development of the history of the modern chair, even recall the very light Manuel chair by the architectural duo Sara Aoom de Sousa and Vasco Lima Mayer.As well as the organic Vasco Águas project, Transformação II, and the Landscape series.Lisbon by Design is at Palacete Gomes Freire from May 21st to 22nd.

Carla Carbone was born in Lisbon, 1971. She studied Drawing in and Design of Equipment at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon. Completed his Masters in Visual Arts Teaching. She writes about Design since 1999, first in the newspaper O Independente, then in editions like Anuário de Design, arq.a magazine, DIF, Parq. She also participates in editions such as FRAME, Diário Digital, Wrongwrong, and in the collection of Portuguese designers, edited by the newspaper Público. She collaborated with illustrations for Fanzine Flanzine and Gerador magazine. (photo: Eurico Lino Vale)

Signup for our newsletter!

I accept the Privacy Policy

Subscribe Umbigo

4 issues > €34

(free shipping to Portugal)