José Zanine Caldas

José Zanine Caldas


Zanine started his career in the 1940’s as a scale modeller in Rio de Janeiro. A self-taught architect and designer, he was commissioned by modernist architects like Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa for his exceptional ability as a modeller exemplified by the solutions given to projects while assembling scale models. 

Envisaging the potential industrialization in the country, Zanine and Sebastião Pontes founded the company ‘Z Artistic Furniture’ at the end of the 1940’s. The intention of this venture was to use plywood to produce modernist style furniture at affordable prices for the middle classes.

In 1964, persecuted by the military regime, Zanine travels to other parts of South America and Africa. This experience shaped his future works as he started to recognize the value of local craftsmanship. He returned to Rio de Janeiro at the end of the 1960’s where he developed several architectural projects using wood structures and applying a modernist style yet maintaining colonial trends.

In 1968 Zanine moved to Nova Viçosa in Bahia where he got involved with environmental protection projects. He perceived the local atmosphere with a complete new perspective. The endangered scrublands of the agreste and the skills of local craftsmen, like canoe makers, which inspired Zanine’s new phase. He decided to start a handcrafted production of furniture using felled trees, tree scraps and tree roots. The deforestation process created by the pulp industry abandoned this ‘prime’ raw material. According to Zanine, it was a form of protest against the aggressive destruction of the environment. 

In 1977 his works were displayed in several locations in Brazil including the Modern Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro [MAM/RJ] and the Art Museum of São Paulo [MASP].

In 1989 he was awarded with the Silver Medal from the French Academy of Architecture and a major exhibition of his work was displayed at the Louvre Decorative Arts Museum in Paris.

Designer exhibited in the Berlin [Stilwerk Mall], Lisbon [MUDE - Museum of Design & Fashion], Rio de Janeiro [Caixa Cultural], London [Embassy of Brazil], Brasilia [Caixa Cultural] and Salvador [Caixa Cultural] exhibitions