Design for sustainability: from Italy to Brazil

  • Carlos Motta
  • Carlos Motta's products
  • Carlos Motta's workshop
  • Adriana Fortunato and Carlos Motta
  • Carlos Motta and Marco Capellini
  • Carlos Motta's workshop
  • Carlos Motta's products

An interview with Carlos Motta

Within the framework of the initiatives implemented by MATREC in Brazil, Marco Capellini meets Carlos Motta in São Paulo to understand the philosophy and the work of one of the main Brazilian designers.

Below is an abstract of the meeting.

Carlos, where does your work start from?

My work starts from a very simple idea: people want useful things. For example, such objects as a pen or a glass are part of our daily life. As an architect and a designer, my purpose is to design useful, nice, simple objects, bound to last for a very long time. This can only be done with the use of renewable, reused, or recycled materials. Only thus can I be confident that an “object” is properly made, according to the principles of sustainability, and that – as such – can be used every day and last in time. This is the simple concept underlying my work.

Most products here in your workshop are characterized and identified by the concept of sustainability. But what sustainability and values do your products and their history convey?

Sustainability starts with a drawing. I love drawing at night: I stroll around São Paulo, sit in a tavern, order good wine, and draw. And as soon as I start drawing, I realize that sustainability is part of the project I’m creating. Sustainability is something I always live on and experience. I can’t imagine a non-sustainable project, because sustainability is part of my DNA.

Where do you source the materials for your products?

Eighty to 90 percent of the materials I use come from demolitions. São Paulo is a huge city where existing buildings are often pulled down. Therefore they are reused materials, such as wood. I mostly use Peroba Rosa wood, a rough material, yet easy to use and to process to create furniture and furnishing items.

You lecture and exhibit around the world, were recently in Berlin, developed some of your experience in California. You seem to have a very clear view of what is going on in the world. In your idea, what direction should design for sustainability take in the next few years?

I think the first and most important step would be to reduce demand. I have just moved to a new house, I moved to a temporary house because I have to refurbish my own, and realized how many things I have gathered and collected. Things that I don’t want, that are not important, not vital, do not improve the look or the quality of my house. These objects have been put together in 35-40 years. While this is what I think, I managed to make this mistake anyway. We must have only what is important to us to live a good life, in comfort, safety, quality, aesthetics, and luxury. In my opinion, this is the first step we should make to change.

How should designers approach consumers to make them appreciate the social and environmental value of products?

Communication of a product’s sustainability should be straightforward. The product should be as transparent as possible. For example, the Asturias collection, which is a best seller, allows consumers to easily perceive its environmental characteristics, such as the use of reused wood.

Thank-you for this meeting and for your kindness. Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

It was my utmost pleasure. It is always very exciting to share ideas. Right now I have several orders for furniture and furnishing items from companies in a variety of sectors. Moreover I will soon be involved in a number of exhibitions on design for sustainability in Europe.