UNSCRIPTED with Fernando Campana: When spontaneity nurtures the garden of life

Brazilian architect Fernando Campana talks about his curiosity for space and cinema, and his journey of becoming a designer who trusts creative chaos and an unprogrammed life.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Jan 21, 2022

"I am afraid of what I cannot see.”

Reminiscing a childhood that meant a desire to be an astronaut and teen years that shifted his passion to acting, Fernando Campana (b.1961) narrates curious things about him in this episode of UNSCRIPTED. A world where cinema was the only route to learn the mysteries of the universe. Climbing walls late night and escaping rules, excited to discover a new story, and in the day, every story found an expression in the backyard. A time when the idea of play meant hiding in tree houses and castles of imagination created with found objects.

Fernando Campana is the co-founder of São Paulo-based Estudio Campana – a design atelier that he runs with his elder brother, Humberto Campana (b. 1953). In this 18-minute video interview, we peek into Fernando’s childhood spent in the city of Brotas, fond memories from his growing up years, and his strong connect with animals, nature, and culture. We also get to know how Fernando, an architect by education, partnered with his lawyer brother and how the duo, popularly known as Campana Brothers, went on to establish an internationally reputed design practice rooted in Brazilian culture and tradition. Recognised particularly for furniture design and everyday objects, their work is characterised by stuffed miniature animals, bold colours, tactile materiality, and local craftsmanship.

  • Fernando Campana wanted to be an astranaut when he was a kid | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Fernando Campana wanted to be an astranaut when he was a kid Image: © Estudio Campana
  • Fernando Campana's parents | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Fernando Campana's parents Image: © Estudio Campana
  •  Living under the military dictatorship in Brazil, Fernando Campana chose not to pursue a career in cinema and space, and instead took on architecture | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Living under the military dictatorship in Brazil, Fernando Campana chose not to pursue a career in cinema and space, and instead took on architecture Image: © Estudio Campana

Born in an Italian family, Fernando’s grandparents were immigrants who had shifted to Brazil to cultivate coffee. His father was an engineer, and mother, a primary school teacher. His formative years, in his own words, were a simple yet vast universe in which he was exposed to the influences of nature, culture, and heritage. A curiosity for space and astronomy piqued him when he first saw the 1968 epic science fiction, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The impact of the movie on him was such that he refused to accept any toys that people used to get for him, "because there was nothing compared to that". In the backyard of his home, together with brother Humberto, Fernando would make his own toys – miniature spaceships out of bamboo, cactus etc.

The immersive experience of cinema and space, however, didn’t pave a career for him. “Because of the military dictatorship in Brazil, I chose to become an architect,” he says on UNSCRIPTED. A graduate from the Escola de Belas Artes from Rio de Janeiro, Fernando shares that his interest in architecture dwindled on seeing the state of buildings in his home country, “I have been living in Brazil – in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo - and I see buildings that are very good and others that were demolished. And I started getting this feeling that when you do something it must remain in the space with its personality and your expression.”

  • With elder brother Humberto Campana (left) | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    With elder brother Humberto Campana (left) Image: © Estudio Campana
  • On partnering with brother Humberto Campana:
    On partnering with brother Humberto Campana: "We never programmed it or made plans or strategies for the future. The future came to us." Image: © Estudio Campana

Describing how unpreparedness nurtured his professional life, he tells us of his early experience of working with Humberto while the latter was doing a business in handcrafted products. “He had called me to give him a helping hand and I went there not as a creator but as a finance person. It’s very funny because it was very spontaneous then as it is today – our life. We never programmed it or made plans or strategies for the future. The future came to us,” reminisces Fernando.

  • Paraiba Chair. 2002 | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Paraiba Chair. 2002Image: Calazans Estúdio
  • Edward Scissorhands. 2014 | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Edward Scissorhands. 2014 Image: © Estudio Campana
  • Anhanguera sofa. 2011 | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Anhanguera sofa. 2011 Image: © Estudio Campana
  • Cake stool. 2008 | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Cake stool. 2008 Image: Fernando Laszlo

Established in 1984, Estudio Campana is a pioneer in disruptive design whose craftsmanship-led creative processes raise everyday materials to nobility. The studio operates in the areas of furniture design, architecture, landscaping, scenography, fashion as well as special projects and commissions. Collaborations with brands such as Alessi, Fontana Arte, Edra, Artecnica, Bernardaud, Baccarat, Corsi Design, Consentino, Louis Vuitton, Grendene and H. Stern, their works are included in the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

  • Old school or contemporary? Fernando likes to pick up the best of the two worlds | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Old school or contemporary? Fernando likes to pick up the best of the two worlds Image: © Estudio Campana
  • Fernando's miniature spaceship created out of cactus | UNSCRIPTED | Fernando Campana | STIRworld
    Fernando's miniature spaceship created out of cactus Image: © Estudio Campana

In addition to the lesser-known insights into the practice, explore the indigenous world of Fernando Campana on UNSCRIPTED: take a glimpse of his home in São Paulo, his habits and everyday rituals, scares and fascinations, and the belief in the philosophy of ageing with grace.

Hit the cover video to watch the complete episode.

All photographs © Estudio Campana, unless stated otherwise. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial, or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.

UNSCRIPTED:
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.  

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