Color and Material Inspiration: Southern Structures

  • Design
  • Interview

Newly released in Substance Source is the Southern Structures collection, a range of materials inspired by the vibrancy of the color palette found within the geometric and abstract forms of Latin American art.

How we chose the materials

In searching for a theme for this newest selection, the Source team turned to the dynamism found within the colors and the abstract and geometric shapes of Latin American art.

Panam/Panama Léa Beart, Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, Kirsten Luce National Geographic, Noma Mexico Frame Magazine, 3D Knitted Concrete Pavilion by ETH Zurich and Zaha Hadid Architects, Charlotte Kidger Dezeen

The palette of this selection has a base of clay colors, contrasted with vibrant blues and greens. In terms of shapes, there is a notion of cut-out volumes – like a patchwork of fundamental geometric forms. Simplicity in form is paramount; these materials have a stripped-down, ‘handmade’ aspect.

While this collection draws its references from a wide range of sources in the artwork of Pre-Colombian and Amerindian cultures, a number of artists and architects in particular have been notably influential – architects such as Freddy Mamani, Solano Benitez, and Gloria Cabral, as well as artists such as Gego, Luiz Zerbini, and Olga de Amaral. These are prominent creators whose work poses important questions regarding the cultural and historical implications of, and interplay among, design and aesthetics.

Culture and history, in design and aesthetics

Certain artists and architects are capable of creations that transcend technical excellence and evoke a particularly visceral response, whether because of the significance of subject matter or because of more emotive considerations. These are the creators who imprint their own identity upon a wider theme, and who can bring it into the awareness of an audience far beyond its initial sphere of presentation.

Freddy Mamani

Builder-turned-architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre is a proponent of the New Andean style, and is notably responsible for the kaleidoscopic reinvention of a whole city – El Alto, Bolivia, where he has created over a hundred buildings. He is the subject of the documentary Cholet: The Work of Freddy Mamani, which explores the connection between architecture and cultural identity.

© Tatewaki Nio

Olga de Amaral

The technique of Colombian artist Olga de Amaral frequently incorporates fibers, paint, and precious metals as a way of transforming two-dimensional textile creations into three-dimensional sculptural works that fuse notions of art, craft, and design. Her work has been exhibited worldwide for decades.

© Diego Amaral

Armando Salas Portugal and Luis Barragán

Mexican photographer Armando Salas Portugal was particularly known for capturing the stark beauty of a scene, particularly when photographing the buildings created by his friend, architect Luis Barragán. The two collaborated many times over the course of their respective careers.

© Armando Salas Portugal

Solano Benítez and Gloria Cabral

Architectural partners Solano Benítez and Gloria Cabral have gained prominence for their use of natural materials such as clay and mud in architecture, as well as other innovative means of maximizing the usability of cost-effective, locally available materials. Such an approach can be seen in their latticed design of the Teletón Children’s Rehabilitation Center, in Paraguay.

© Thibaut Voisin

Luiz Zerbini

Luiz Zerbini is a Brazilian artist who has gained renown both for highly abstract paintings and for more concrete scenes of landscapes, cities, and domestic environments. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide.

© Jaime Acioli

Anna Mariani

Brazilian artist and photographer Anna Mariani has notably taken remarkable photos of the facades of houses in northeastern Brazil. She approaches color as a phenomenon of both visual perception and cultural identity.

How the Substance team used the Southern Structures theme

We were so struck by this theme that we chose to incorporate it into the third segment of our Crossroads video, created by Ronan Mahon and produced by the Substance team.

Read more about the video here.

Read more