When Fernando and Humberto Campana began work on the New Hotel project in Athens 10 years ago, little did they know just how important the collaboration would be, not only for their own practice, but also for the local artisans and architects who joined in on the adventure.
Brazil is in the chairs, tables, sofas, lighting and artwork that Estudio Campana's Fernando and Humberto Campana have made over the past 20 years from their studio in São Paulo. An eclectic, colourful city, it is the place where the designers draw their ideas and inspiration. “It’s crazy!” remarks Fernando. “It forces you to see beauty where beauty doesn’t exist. If you want to create something, it’s even more stimulating.”
The Campanas spend half the year in Europe and the other half in Brazil, employing architects, designers, students and artisans, including sewers, who have become family and keep the studio buzzing. Though small in size, the team is big on research, innovation and conceptual development. The workbenches are laden with materials, the courtyard used for experimenting with prototypes. In Brazil and beyond, the Campana's studio is one that young designers want to intern with for obvious reasons.
Ten years ago, Estudio Campana took on the redesign of the Olympic Palace Hotel in Athens. The New Hotel project led to a satellite studio for the Campanas in that city, much to the excitement of local architects, designers and craftspeople.
The project started with Dakis Ioannou, a renowned art collector, founder of the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Greece, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. He was the new owner of the Olympic Palace Hotel, originally built in 1958 by architect Iasonas Rizos, and considered one of the best examples of Modernist architecture in Athens.
Dakis Ioannou's vision was to create a working studio, where, under the direction of the Campanas, a group of local architecture and design students from the University of Thessaly, would create new interiors, furniture, samples and prototypes, that explored methods and techniques, and re-used and re-mixed the furniture and materials from the original hotel. The Campanas visited every few months and at other times worked remotely. Drawings, materials and prototypes went back and forth constantly.
Keeping some of the original features of the building including the black marble staircase, the team re-mixed and re-used chairs, created a favela wall and column made from fragments of abandoned pieces of furniture collected from the street, a multi-prismatic wash basin, a fragmented desk and a range of crockery. Life-size models were created during the process in collaboration with local technicians and artisan craftsmen, and everything was tested in the hotel’s 'pilot room' and adjusted accordingly.
The New Hotel is not only the first hotel by the Campana brothers, it is also their first cross-continental collaboration at this scale. Unlike any other hotel project of its time, it is a testament to Dakis Ioannou's belief in the arts and the many local skills often lost in a project's story.
Jump to Australia for the 2017 NGV Triennial. Humberto and Fernando have recently completed 'Victoria Amazonica', a new collaboration with Yarrenyty Arltere Artists based in Alice Springs in the far Northern Territory of Australia. Humberto has been in Australia to work on the project and will be back this month to speak about his studio's process of working collaboratively in the talk 'Objects with Stories: Humberto Campana'. Read more at the NGV – the NGV Triennial runs until 15 April 2018.