First Design Exhibition at Malba Focuses on Responsible Creators in Buenos Aires


The Buenos Aires Museum of Latin American Art (aka Malba, the most modern in the city) is holding its first industrial design exhibition from December 7th until next January 28th; and for our delight, the three chosen designers for it are creators who have in common a commitment with responsible practices and green behaviors.

Those are architect Diana Cabeza, who designs furniture for public spaces; Alejandro Sarmiento, who has a long tradition creating products with recovered materials; and Arturo de Tezanos Pinto and Carlos Ernesto Gronda, founders of the brand Usos and natives from the north of the country that have reinterpreted traditional materials and techniques. A unique opportunity for those in town and others curious around the world to know more about three Argentine design icons known for their unique vision and deep thoughtfulness on design and production processes.

Keep reading for more.The show, called Design Genealogies, aims to show 'design behaviors' of people that keep a commitment with singular and intense searches. According to the curator that put it together, Carolina Muzi, besides originality, responsibility was one of the main qualities she looked for in the creators.

"The issue of sustainability and care for the environment is fundamental for me. Ever since I knew the city of Trenque Lauquen (a town within Buenos Aires province about 445 kilometers from the capital, known for its green practices), I've opened my eyes to these actions. Therefore, even though the crux of the show is not sustainability, I would have never chosen designers that weren't sensitive and coherent with it," explains Muzi.

"Responsibility in the use of sustainable materials and productive processes is something universities should be doing a lot on emphasis in, because there's not a strong consciousness around it in the country right now. We talk about sustainability a lot but the word is applied to actions very lightly," she states.


Diana Cabeza's area in the exhibition.

The chosen designers, as states above, were Diana Cabeza, Alejandro Sarmiento, and Arturo de Tezanos Pinto and Carlos Ernesto Gronda, from the brand Usos.

The first is an architect that developed a career designing equipment for open spaces. Her seats with neat lines that mix with the city landscape can be found in several areas of Buenos Aires, such as Puerto Madero.

Besides that, however, Cabeza was also a pioneer in having a very responsible behavior with materials. "Ever since the beginning of her career she got interested in the reactivation of small economies through materials: she worked with wicker from Tigre (a coastal city half an hour from Buenos Aires) and with traditional techniques from there before that was an urgent matter," says Carolina Muzi.

Cabeza also uses only reforestation and certified wood for all her work, and even got to reject requests to make products with other types of solid wood. To avoid the use of solid wood in some furniture for open spaces, she also developed a special plate covering.


Alejandro Sarmiento's section at the show.

The work of the second chosen designer, Alejandro Sarmiento, is no new for Argentine TreeHuggers: he has been working with recovered materials for 20 years now. One of his most famous projects is Contenido Neto, which he developed along with Miki Friedenbach, in which he invented a tool to get strings out of PET bottles and then knit them into products. Sarmiento has also been working in the wakening of new designers with his Satori workshops, which we covered here.

"Growing up in a small town in Buenos Aires province, Sarmiento was educated in the culture of saving and reuse of materials that 30 years ago were considered expensive. This natural characteristic he always had in him took the green road with Contenido Neto, which was meaningful specially in the 2001 Argentine economic crash," explains Muzi.

The reason of the importance of this project was that the process to get strips of the PET bottles and making products was taught to people in need for them to try to make a living out of their own work.


Usos' area in the exhibition salon.

The third and final designers are natives from Jujuy, the most northern of Argentina's provinces and a place with a rich ancestral culture. Arturo de Tezanos Pinto and Carlos Ernesto Gronda, from the brand Usos, have managed to reinterpret that culture into new products but without leaving aside the care for the nature they grew up with.

For example, the designers started to work with native woods from their province and have applied clear reforesting practices: for every tree taken down, ten new are planted.

"When I visited their factory, it was interesting to see how they work with artisans to take advantage of wood scraps, that are then turned into new products such as the Ojos or Tunas benches. They have also put to use types of wood that were highly reforested but little used, like Palo Blanco; only use natural dying products, and in order to use dry Cardon, they only take pieces they find and use it in incrustations," explains Muzi.


From left to right: Arturo de Tezanos Pinto, Diana Cabeza, Alejandro Sarmiento (below) and Carlos Ernesto Gronda (above) at the opening of the show.

As mentioned, the work of these three designers is exhibited at the Malba museum from December 7th until next January 15th.

The show starts with a section were different benches made by the three designers start "a dialogue", and then continues with three spaces dedicated to each designer. Entry is free of charge, and the museum is open everyday but Tuesdays from 12 to 8pm, and until 9pm on Wednesdays.

"Within the diversity of these three designers, we present a summary of the new design scenario in this region. In them there is a representation of the variety of this country, with its different areas, materials and cultures," says Carolina Muzi.

"Also, these three 'design behaviors' tackle problems design has to respond to these days, like integration and accessibility to big cities, the lack of resources and the materials challenge, and the means of expression and fair trade of small native towns in the context of globalization."