Jose Zanine Caldas

The Brazilian Identity

Historical importance is placed on divergent ideologies in the twentieth century, with progress and industrialization holding reign over ecological and environmental awareness. How then does an architect respond to his country falling to European colonialism? How does he foster a movement of preservation and sensitive creativity imbuing nature and serene rawness to all of his accomplishments, architecture and furniture?

José Zanine Caldas’ table presented here is comprised of Vinhatico (Plathymenia reticulate), a rot-resistant South American legume tree used often in structural modalities and traditionally for canoes. Caldas employed numerous canoe carvers in his workshops, in both an architectural and furniture capacity, utilizing their skills and experience with the wood to inform his furniture designs. The wood’s ability to fend off natural destructive forces adds to its longevity as a design form, and compliments the designer’s efforts to preserve a Brazilian identity.

Highly sculptural, innocent and deeply spiritual, this table is a testament to his adoration of natural fissures, nuances and organic qualities inherent in the wood itself. Although never formally trained as an architect, he was a renowned model-maker for many different architects. While most architects of his generation studied extensively, Caldas developed his own style through doing and making. His architecture is referenced in his furniture designs through a quaint and seductive simplicity. The top of the table consists of three joined segments from the same tree, exposing large filled knots and fissures that are highlighted by a sap grain perimeter, exploiting the tree’s natural contrasting qualities. His use of a pure Brazilian vernacular in the construction and aesthetic of his design gives triumph to his persistent and applauded efforts to restore the forests that surrounded him his whole life. Zanine Caldas’ furniture and architecture reflects the magical beauty of the Brazilian landscape. Trees were the single most important theme in his oeuvre, and the thoughtful, careful selection of the natural motifs utilized by the artist was central to his life, epitomized in this work.

This table was made for a house owned by my father’s engineer Paulo Gomes, whose house was in Joatinga overlooking Baja de Tijuca in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. The entire house was made from salvaged material in my father’s style of ecological architecture. The table was made from found wood from stumps found in Bahia, Brazil. The forest was cleared and my father employed local villagers to get this wood that was left to rot. These woods my father used are named "Madeira Nobre " or " Noble Wood " in English because of their superior qualities and hardness. This table is a unique piece and there is no other exactly the same. 

—Zanini de Zanine Caldas, 2015