Cultured Magazine

April/May 2015

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108 CULTURED When Alexander Andersson discovered a dozen vintage benches at the Lagunilla flea market in his adopted Mexico City, he knew they were special. "Actually, I found them to be extraordinary," says the Swedish-born designer. "Their cedar planks have a pyramidal structure and beautiful joinery. Their scale and detailing reminded me of the mid-century Scandinavian furniture I grew up with in Sweden." A year later, he traced their provenance to the architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, who Barry Bergdoll, before stepping down as chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA, included in the museum's exhibition "Latin America in Construction: Architecture, 1955–1980," (see "Beyond Barragán," page 162). "Modern Mexico and he are indissociable," says Bergdoll. "He helped define the modern metropolis, not only in the textbooks on Mexican architecture, but in the public's shared imagination." Ramírez Vázquez, who died in 2013 on the same day he was born 94 years earlier, formed a relationship with Andersson, and their singular, symbiotic sensibilities led to Luteca, a company he co-founded with Amanda Price Reant and her husband Sebastian Reant. "We have access to 150 technical drawings and prototypes of Ramírez Vázquez's furniture," says Price Reant, who spent close to a decade as the U.S. managing director of The Rug Company. "And what's so thrilling is that many of them are unmade or they haven't seen the light of day for more than 50 years." Five of his tables from the 1970s are origami-like, formed from folded steel; his 1964 Equipal chair, a recherché incarnation of the ubiquitous pigskin chair of the same name, incorporates 36 lengths of solid brass. "Our product development took two years, which, I guess, is sort of epic because it's totally artisanal. Back then, sheet metal was cut with a plasma torch, but we use laser technology. Rather than buy pre-polished steel, we finish our metals by hand, and we screw rather than weld them together. Needless to say, we're in no fear of getting knocked off." Andersson, who is the company's creative director, designed the collection's 14 tables, cabinets, sofas, chairs and benches out of mahogany, walnut, beech and maple, and they, too, are exquisitely crafted in Mexico City. "When I first saw Alex's pieces," says Price Reant, "they struck me as unique and iconic, but they also had this enticing familiarity." In silhouette, the Arachnid E chair might be a contemporary, tailored descendent of Hans Wegner's Wishbone chair; the back rail of the pert N chair resembles a Minimalist Shinto symbol; the low-slung Atra chair has a race car's recline. Luteca's entire portfolio explores movement or its counterpoint. Ramírez Vázquez's tables have stability at their core, and the thrusts and slinky curves in Andersson's chair frames are reminiscent of Bob Fosse's sensuous choreography. "There will be a lot of intention behind my next collection," says Andersson, who's currently spending his time immersed in esoterica, quantum physics, shamanistic rituals, acid washing and golden mean proportions. "I recognize design's power to seduce, but I take my research periods seriously because I want my work to pass through generations just as I still have my grandmother's furniture. A good analogy is falling in love with a beautiful woman: after a while it's what's in her head that counts." For its inaugural furniture collection, Luteca's creative director Alexander Andersson delves into the archives of master architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. BY LINDA O'KEEFFE PORTRAIT BY THOMAS LOOF MIDCENTURY AND MODERN

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