In 2014 we had the pleasure of taking part in a unique cross-cultural design project which saw us collaborating with Brazilian and British students, a Brazilian cultural organisation and Studio X Rio, a space in Rio de Janeiro which brings together professionals, academics, decision makers, students, and the general public to confront urban challenges.
In the workshop, Studio X and ourselves worked with architecture and spatial practice students from the (PUC) in Rio de Janeiro and Central St Martins (CSM) in London to design and produce a series of furniture prototypes for the new headquarters of the Jongo da Serrinha, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Rio de Janeiro.
Dedicated to promoting culture and youth education and to preserving the tradition of the Jongo (an Afro-Brazilian music and dance), the Jongo da Serrinha is the only formal civilian institution in the Serrinha favela. Its new headquarters, Casa do Jongo (Jongo’s House), was going to allow the NGO to expand and further enhance the sustainable development of Serrinha.
With Studio X facilitating, we began by learning about Jongo da Serrinha and Jongo culture through lectures, conversations and special performances. Most importantly, we visited the NGO in Serrinha, where we also met with, and were treated to performances by, local children and key Jongo teachers and elders.
Back in the workshop, the students created large ‘narrative drawings’ illustrating the Jongo research, memories, rituals and stories they had gathered. They then worked collaboratively on their furniture designs in small groups before designing and building their full-scale prototypes. The designs responded directly to the unique insights that each group had uncovered – proposals included a musical see-saw, a loom table for weaving plastic fabric from bottles, and a set of tables and chairs that can also be used to practice Jongo drum rhythms.
The low-cost pieces of furniture we produced combined traditional Brazilian construction techniques with digital fabrication methods and incorporated the re-use of locally sourced objects. The final pieces were displayed along with their corresponding ‘narrative drawings’ in an exhibition at Studio X before being transferred to the new Casa do Jongo building.
CSM / PUC / Studio X Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil