Branca-Lisboa by Marco Sousa Santos 19.04.13

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One of the exhibits at the Maison & Objet stopping visitors in their tracks was Branca-Lisboa by Marco Sousa Santos. Sousa Santos is an industrial designer, a professor of industrial design at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Lisbon University and a curator of international exhibitions. His work has been exhibited in the V&A, MoMA in New York, the Triennale in Milan and the Salon du Meuble in Paris. But Branca-Lisboa is only two years old.

Branca-Lisboa means "White Lisbon". Sousa Santos explains: "It's a private joke. Lisbon is my inspiration. It has a unique location with a very bright, white light – the sidewalks and building facades are white, plus it's close to the sea."

Sousa Santos's W.01 (Shell Chair) was designed four years ago for an exhibition. Its success was the springboard for the launch of the complete collection and for the creation of the Branca-Lisboa brand.

The R&B chair is a modern interpretation of a traditional Portuguese dining-room chair from rural Alentejo. The R&B2 – also known as the Rabo de Bacalhau (codfish tail) chair – transforms this design into an easy chair with its ergonomic seat, armrests and reinforced backrest. The WR.O2 (Skin Chair) is a minimalist form in solid beech partially covered in rubber, which can be customised with any RAL colour on request.

The studio, in the heart of Lisbon, has only four people, with a factory in the north. "At our scale, it's impossible to launch new products every month. This collection evolved naturally over time. My real challenge now is to develop rapidly while assuring excellent quality. I'm a great believer in Slow Design!"

Sousa Santos speaks of the changing nature and character of the Portuguese design scene. "I'm noticing a massive geographical turnabout," he says. "Previously, Portugal's creative engine was located in the south. In the past four years, young designers have been setting up in the north, alongside the wood and steel industries there. They are producing beautiful small runs of limited-edition furniture." As for the reaction to his designs at Maison & Objet, Sousa Santos says: "I heard 'Wow!' a lot. That's always music to the ears."

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Jean Grogan

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My real challenge now is to develop rapidly while assuring excellent quality

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