Federico Churba graduated from the industrial design program at the University of Buenos Aires in 2001, right on the cusp of Argentina’s economic crisis and the collapse of its peso. His country’s reduced reliance on imports and shift to domestic industry meant a short testing period for young designers. “There was a strong pull to start producing immediately and showing the world what we could do,” says Churba. From the beginning, he was interested in manipulating material and forms to create simple, newly iconic shapes. An early influence was Vico Magistretti and his 1986 Vidun table, whose height-adjustable base is an outsized wooden screw.
Churba collaborated with other young designers until founding his own practice in 2008. Soon afterward, a Buenos Aires store featuring B&B Italia and Flexform inquired about selling his work, and he challenged himself to stand out from the Italians. “I decided to look for my identity in my city,” he says. In small towns on the fringes of Buenos Aires, he photographed concrete water tubes being used as flowerpots, tables, and containers. They inspired his Pluvial tables, made using molds he discovered in a spun-aluminum factory. The series of convex and concave shapes can be configured in many combinations, echoing his countrymen’s makeshift use of the aforementioned tubes.
More recently, the designer has been preoccupied with folding and bending sheets of unlikely materials. He created his Hanoi lamp while experimenting with scissors and rubber. He used thin slices of Corian for the prototypes, but Prandina now produces the lamp from PMMA, more commonly known as Plexiglas. “I love looking for simplicity, but I wouldn’t describe the search as one of freedom and plasticity,” Churba says. “I do a lot of research and development in details, materials, and proportion. Maybe one day I will be more relaxed.”