• 07.27.11

Rodrigo Almeida’s Magpie Designs Evoke Brazil’s Mixed Ethnicities

Rodrigo Almeida designs chairs whose looks reflect Brazilian DIY culture.

Brazil doesn’t export much design to the international scene. But the brightest among the few rising stars is Rodrigo Almeida, who draws on Brazil’s diverse culture — a blend of indigenous Brazilians, Afro-Brazilians, and Paulistas — to handcraft furniture using layers of bright colors and everyday materials.


“Miscegenation is one of the most important aspects of my work,” Almeida tells Co.Design. ‘Everything is hybrid and not obvious.’ In other words, his designs aren’t literal interpretations but nuanced works that evoke a mood or theme. For his Africa chair, for instance, he draped strands of rope onto a wooden frame. “[It] does not look like a traditional African chair, but the rhythm and the design of the object remind us of the African culture influence in Brazil.” The bright, varied colors of the nylon ropes evoke the cheap plastic cast-offs that Africans in many countries hack and adapt to whatever use is at hand. In other words, Almeida is riffing on the cultural practices and the day-to-day life of Africa — not just taking some museum-worthy object and updating it.

Just as Brazil is a hodgepodge of ethnicities, Almeida pieces are patchworks of disparate materials and textures, which magically seem to work together. The feel is apiece with favelas and all-night beachfront raves.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.