Rafael de Cárdenas is the New York-based creative talent paving a bright and promising future for American design. Inspired by the founding fathers of Art Deco and the Prairie School of American architecture, de Cárdenas is now imprinting his own individual stamp on the landscape. With his roots firmly in fashion and architecture, after graduating with degrees in both fields, Rafael's diverse skill set has led him on to work with the likes of fashion giant Calvin Klein to setting his talents - in collaboration with United Stated Artists fellow Greg Lynn - on devising an ethereal cathedral-like proposal submitted for the redesign of the World Trade Centre site, coming an impressive sixth in the final entries.
As co-founder of Architecture At Large (the New York agency at the forefront of conceptual design), de Cárdenas stands firmly as a force to be reckoned with - creating exclusive pieces for boutiques, galleries, restaurants, friends, and private customers around the world. In his first ever furniture collection, showcased in a new exhibition at the Johnson Trading Gallery in New York, de Cárdenas channels the spirit of Bruce Goff and Frank Lloyd Wright with clean lines and angular shapes across a range of textures and palates. Dazed Digital caught up with Rafael to find out more about the exhibit...
Dazed Digital: How did you start designing furniture?
Rafael de Cárdenas: I always design some type furniture for projects, or at the least, some joinery. This collection is a more focused way of investigating that interest.
DD: How has your background in architecture and fashion influenced your work?
Rafael de Cárdenas: Fashion – I suppose it taught me how to look at form and think of how to dress it, wrap it or veil it to suggest different uses or users. It taught me how to create moods. I approach everything from an architectural perspective; it engenders a type of distracted attention for the observer.
DD: What inspired this collection?
Rafael de Cárdenas: The collection stems from an interest in painfully simple triangular forms and using surface treatments in various ways to adjust 'volume'. Each form in the collection has at least one other version treated differently in terms of color and surface, suggesting various moods for each.
DD: What is it that you find interesting about angular shapes?
Rafael de Cárdenas: Well, I'm not only interested in angular forms; I'm interested in the contemporary state, and it seems the fashionable undulation of curved surfaces has given way to the prismatic effects of angles. I particularly like their facility for creating distorted sight lines. Such indeterminacy suggests a dream state and enhances a mood.
DD: Your favorite period of furniture design/favorite furniture designer and why?
Rafael de Cárdenas: I don't really have a favorite, but I really like Frank Lloyd Wright and So Cal Deco right now. Their sampling of Aztec hieroglyphs and symbology seems to be a precursor to Memphis.
DD: Your most prized piece of furniture and why?
Rafael de Cárdenas: I have a few. I just purchased a Moroso Urquiola sofa that I'm pretty crazy about. But, my favorite is likely a small Pierre Guariche sconce next to my bed.
Rafael de Cárdenas First Collection of Furniture, Johnson Trading Gallery, 490 Greenwich Street, New York 10013, 13 May - 25 June 2011