Jorge Zalszupin (Warsaw, Poland 1922 - São Paulo, Brasil 2020) graduated as an architect in Romania in 1945. His importance in Brazilian design is not yet fully documented. Besides owning the l'Atelier furniture factory, dedicated to the design of modern furniture, Zalszupin led a unique initiative: he coordinated a team of designers who worked for four different factories owned by the same business group, the Forsa group. This was a rare experience.
Zalszupin immigrated to Brazil in 1949 and, after a brief stay in the capital of the Republic, settled in São Paulo, a city beginning to commence a great cycle of industrial growth and great cultural transformations. In the early 1950s he opened an architecture firm, in partnership with José Gugliota. After some time, he tired of design pieces exclusively for the homes of elite clients and decided to join a group of joiners and produce small series, which Led to the formulation of the l'Atelier factory, which soon began to manufacture office furniture and went from a joinery of handmade production to an industry of mass production. The first piece of the series was made in 1959, it was an armchair, nicknamed 'Danish' by the staff. Composed of rosewood and upholstery, it features toothpick legs which along with the arms front feet resemble the columns designed by Niemeyer for the Palace of Dawn.
In the early 1970s, with serious financial problems, l'Atelier was sold to a business group, which already owned Laminação Brasil (hardware), the Hevea plastic products industry and the Labo computer factory. The sale was negotiated with Zalszupin to maintain the position as director of product research and development. Zalszupin expanded the team of designers - which already had Oswaldo Mellone - incorporating Paulo Jorge Pedreira and Lílian Weimberg, permanently. The designers baptized the business group and began to act as a creative laboratory.
The technical possibilities offered by four different industrial plants were enhanced by the team of designers. Hevea, which produced plastic commodities, started to produce a very sophisticated line of design products resulting in the establishment of the brand, Eva, specializing in household items, sold in supermarkets. L'Atelier itself started using incorporating plastic into its product line, producing panels for offices and licensing the Hille polypropylene shell chair designed by Robin Day. In addition to the products sent to the market, the design team of the Forsa group tested new ideas, which form an extraordinary collection and that certainly influenced the work of Oswaldo Mellone and Paulo Jorge Pedreira.
Among his most acclaimed works is the Limestone Table whose success is determined by the materials used. It consists of two simple wooden structures that support a large marble table top. Zalszupin lets the material speak for itself. Another renowned designs of his was the Romana coffee table, based on a similar design. It has a long marble top affixed to thin, exquisitely curved wooden legs. In his work the Petalas, Zalszupin plays with an organic form inspired by flower petals. The idea works both as a large octagonal table as well as in a smaller one made of only four elements. Moreover, there is Zalszupin’s Andorinha table, another design inspired by nature, taking the form of a swallow. He transforms this inspiration into a multifunctional table with ease, cutting out an opening in the table top in which he places a double ‘hanger’ to be used as a newspaper holder. A newspaper holder can also be seen in his Onda bench. It’s sensual lines hint at waves, although Zalszupin does not allow this inspiration to be too obvious. The ergonomic waves of the seat are balanced by simple, straight metal legs.
His experimentation in the conjoining of different materials resulted in projects such as Veranda or 720. In both armchair designs, Zalszupin explores the possibilities of stretching leather over wooden frames. He exposes the connecting joints and elements of the structures, creating an intriguing visual element.
In his flagship project entitled Dinamarquesa or Danish Zalszupin again played with the idea of a wooden structure and leather seat, which is pulled across the frame. However, in this model he placed a more emphasis on the elegance of the silhouette. His attention to detail and high-quality materials are reminiscent of jewellery, the lower part of its supporting legs are wrapped in what seem to be metal bracelets. The connecting joints are not exposed, yet there is a well-thought-out frame and distinctively curved armrests. Dinamarquesa may be the embodiment of what is best in Zalszupin’s designs: where discipline meets the beauty of a liberated, clear line resulting in a harmonious whole which is full of emotion.
The crisis of the 1980s profoundly affected the performance of Forsa group. The design team abandoned the company at the end of the decade. Oswaldo Mellone and Paulo Jorge Pedreira opened their individual offices and Jorge Zalszupin dedicated himself exclusively to architecture, an activity he never left.
From 2005, the company Etel Carpillaria began to produce several of the items designed by Zalszupin for l'Atelier - among them the armchair 'Danish' – reviving the objects from the artisanal phase of the company.
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