Now that Brazil is enjoying a seemingly unstoppable boom, it seems like a good time to remember that during the 1950s and 60s, the country was at the vanguard of architecture and design. Brasilia, its gleaming new capital, was being inaugurated, and architects like Oscar Niemeyer and Paulo Mendes da Rocha—who both went on to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize—were earning international accolades. Their newfangled buildings also demanded new types of interiors, and so designers like Sergio Rodrigues, Jorge Zalszupin, Joaquim Terneiro and Jose Zanine Caldas, among others, used indigenous materials like Jacaranda, rosewood, and leather to create some of the most iconic modern furniture anywhere.


Taking advantage of this important legacy, cultural entrepreneurs are determined to capitalize on the country’s creative past, while promoting a new generation of talent. Design São Paulo, which just had its first iteration from June 15 to 19 at Niemeyer’s famous Oca building in Ibirapuera park, brought together 17 of the best design galleries in the country (plus one from Portugal), as well as special exhibitions by the Campana Brothers and international guests Maurizio Gallante and Tal Lancman. (The Campanas also hosted a series of talks with Ingo Maurer and Gijs Bakker.)


The fair, which will be held yearly, only showcases unique or limited-edition pieces, such as vintage items by Lina Bo Bardi and Sergio Rodrigues, and new works by up-and-comers like Rodrigo Almeida and Zanini de Zanine. The event serves as a commercial platform for the design community in Brazil, and also promotes cross-pollination of disciplines: fashion designer Gloria Coelho, for example, created totemic lights reminiscent of her structural clothes, while jewelry designer Antonio Bernardo blew up one of his signature earrings into a swirling, golden chandelier. “When design is good, it all works together regardless of whether it’s from the same time period or follows the same direction,” said curator Maria Helena Estrada, editor in chief of ARC Design magazine.


Click here for a few of the show’s highlights