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About Miguel Arruda

Miguel Arruda, develops his work in the areas of Sculpture, Design and Architecture. In 1968 he completed his studies in sculpture at the University of Fine Arts of Lisbon and in 1989 received a degree in architecture from the Faculty of Architecture of Technical University of Lisbon. Starts working as a university professor in 1969, having obtained the title of Full Professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon in 2003. Here he is coordinator of the Course of Equipment Design (1998-2006) and president of its Board of Directors (2004-2008). He has lectured on the theme of Design and Architecture in Portugal and abroad, namely in Italy at Federico II University in Naples and at the Polytechnic Institute of Milan. His design work has been presented at major international fairs, including Milan, Paris, Madrid, Birmingham, Kortrijk, Stockholm, Tokyo, Shanghai and New York.

Interview with Miguel Arruda

Miguel Arruda ("MA") interviewed on Thursday, 7 May.

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?

MA : I have been in the industry since the 1970s, having recently developed with Portuguese companies Movecho and Exporlux furniture and lighting projects that won the most significant awards (A'Design Award, Reddot Design Award, German Design Award and Good Design Award).My academic background includes the courses of Sculpture and Architecture. I was the founder of the Design course in Portugal, at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, where I was Full Professor in the area of Project Methodology.

How did you become a designer?

MA : My initiation in Design had the peculiarity of being a consequence of the Revolution of 25 of April of 1974 in Portugal. With the revolution I had the opportunity to assume responsibility for the artistic direction of a furniture factory (David Ribeiro), who with the revolution had been without clients for his old production and for which I designed a set of pieces destined to the population needs emerging from the revolution and that saved the factory and its workers making the production viable again.It was a very interesting experience both from the aesthetic, technological and human point of view, with respect to the labor component (of the working class) that was naturally influenced by the ongoing revolutionary process albeit these adverse circumstances it was made possible due to the quality and inovative products that created a new oportunity for the factory and indeed a new market for new products.

What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?

MA : The fundamental priority is the function of the project and the material in which it is to be done.The study of the capacities of the chosen material must be deepened in order to be able to withdraw all its potential for the project. The manual drawing and the execution of models at various scales are of the utmost importance. The rendering already appears in a final part in simultaneous with the photograph of the models of the project.

Which emotions do you feel when designing?

MA : Design by its scale, contrary to what happens in Architecture, allows a realization and a very immediate confirmation of the behavior of the public in relation to our work. The start of the project in conceptual terms, its technology journey and finally its remarkable interaction with the public, are three very special moments of the creative process in the area of Design.

What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?

MA : The exercise of the drawing in a continuous way is fundamental for the creative process, namely in the register for later interpretation of forms and functionalities existing in the nature either vegetal, animal or mineral. My creative process is based on the register that the design allows, but immediately goes to the model and returns successively to the drawing, in a continuous and alternative process. My experience as a sculptor was and is very important throughout this creative process in which two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality alternate and necessarily complement each other.

What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?

MA : As a Designer I would like to be remembered as someone who sought to develop his designer work through the use of materials characteristic of Portugal such as cork and pine wood and also the use of the tile characteristic of the architectural coatings of Portuguese cities. As a Designer and Architect I would like to take to the end the Habitable Sculpture that is at the CCB in Lisbon. It is a metal construction with an anthropomorphic character covered with outer cork and inside where its internal space defines a living space (T1) and where cork confirms its characteristics, acoustic and still the aesthetic value of its surface, both internal and external.

What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?

MA : Design as a process of personal fulfillment requires a strong and total dedication. Work capacity to investigate the potential of the natural or artificial materials that will be the object of our work, methodological inventory and respective experimentation in order to find clues for project development. Strong and structured information capacity both through reading and travel in order to develop and update your intellectual capacity.

You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?

MA : I would advise in the establishment of an effective compromise between our conceptual capacity and its constructive operability so that the possible realization of the project in question can be assured. I consider it extremely negative the acumulation of unfinished projects, because only through the concretization of a project, we have the opportunity to carry out our entire learning and thus ensure our professional development.

What is your day to day look like?

MA : My work day is divided between my work as a studio in the critical analysis of the projects of Architecture and Design, the visit to the works in progress, as well as the factories where my project activity is under development, level of Architecture and Design. At night I usually spend two to three hours reading magazines and books about Design and Architecture.

How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?

MA : The design journey of a Designer and / or Architect is something that has been built over time, either by the work developed, the readings made and also by the trips or to observe certain projects, art exhibitions, or even the well-known Fairs of International furniture and lighting. The result of this journey naturally determines a way of seeing and thinking that defines the conceptuality of our project activity. It is in the interior of this process that we find our personal inspiration.

How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?

MA : Our project activity should pursue an economy of means to achieve the best result. In this sense, all the projectual and technological process must be subject to greater rigor and attention in order to achieve a correct relationship between the price and quality factor, so that our project has the intended receptivity by the size of the audience for which it is intended.

How do you decide if your design is ready?

MA : I have as a routine, after a project is done, to make an entire projectual and factory jouney, where in fact necessarily undergoes specific changes,I bring it to my atelier or to my house where it stays, in what Corbusier called "proof of the drawer" and which had the meaning of putting the drawings of a project in the drawer for some time, so I can later see if they resisted thepassing time. I also place the pieces in question in an inhabited space to observe them and verify their capabilities.

What is your biggest design work?

MA : It's hard to say the biggest, but actually the white tile lamp "Sun" develops what was defined as the "Tile Ligthing Concept".The use of an ancestral ceramic material, traditionally characteristic of tiles, applied in the exterior and interior of the Portuguese Architecture is recovered here to coat a line of lamps.Associated with this semantic option of material, there is a formal exploration of an anthropomorphic character to which the white glaze of the tile complements sensorially its shape.This lamp was also the subject of distinctions by A'Design Award, Reddot, German Design and Good Design.

Who is your favourite designer?

MA : My favorite designer is Michael Thonet who in 1850 reacted against the massive furniture of the entire bourgeois social structure, by analyzing the elastic capacities of birch wood, through chemical and mechanical processes develops the curvature of the wood to create what which is now known as the Thonet chairs. It is exemplary of a design through the discovery of a technology relative to the material used.

Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?

MA : Venice is a city that I visit at least at the time of the Biennials of Art and Architecture and that is for me a true inspiration both in the concrete project plan and in the capacity to reflect on the work done as well as the future work.Schopenhauer said that Architecture was frozen music! indeed the music has, I think for all of us a significant importance, I often hear the New World Symphony of Dvorak and I distinguish with special relief the work of Dmitri Shostakovich. In a more contemporary and light the music of Jacques Brel, the Beatles and the Portuguese Amália Rodrigues with fado and Zeca Afonso with music of revolutionary vanguard.Design with its rigorous concern both aesthetically and technologically, translates into a tool with a specific pedagogical capacity even for the relative ease of its concretization as an object of our daily life.

Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?

MA : We work as a team in my studio with Portuguese and foreign collaborators, especially Italians, possibly due to my relationship with the University Federico II of Naples where I am sometimes called to do workshops on specific topics, such as in next May which is entitled "Torri in celebration, torri in luce ".When selecting work partners I always look for people who question and therefore have the ability and the concern to critically analyze the work in progress. As for the characteristics of a good designer, artist or architect beyond his sensitivity, there must be an immense obsession with his work.

What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?

MA : I consider it correct, and have always been available for activities under the spirit of pro bono. In this sense I consider relevant all the professionals who are available for humanitarian projects. My retribution to society goes through the commitment I have in carrying out my work, especially in the pedagogical field and throughout my entire activity as a Professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon where I was President and where I founded the Chair of Project Methodology in the Course of Design of which I was one of the three founders.

What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?

MA : The city of Como is in itself a very well chosen place for this event given the beauty that characterizes it as well as the Palace where the award ceremony takes place. The participation in these design awards leads to the development work of each project, to the knowledge of other works presented and finally to the possibility of meeting other designers simultaneously with a cultural climate of great quality.The importance of design competitions, as I mentioned above, has a main point of project development that each designer has to do to achieve the highest quality in his project in order that it can be accepted, on the other hand the prestige of the dissemination of this prize is a relevant factor in the promotion of competing designers allowing them through the dissemination of the prize a significant promotion of their work both in relation to the event and in relation to the available media.

Miguel Arruda Profile

Sun Tile  Decorative Lighting Solution

Sun Tile Decorative Lighting Solution design by Miguel Arruda


Lounge TAP Airport Lounge

Lounge TAP Airport Lounge design by Miguel Arruda


Cilindro Desk

Cilindro Desk design by Miguel Arruda


Cork Trunk Bench

Cork Trunk Bench design by Miguel Arruda


Nuvem Decorative Lighting Solution

Nuvem Decorative Lighting Solution design by Miguel Arruda

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