The history of the early days of design in Portugal certainly requires the recognition of the Anonymous Designers. With pragmatism and sensitivity molded in craftsmanship, these were the men who knew how to reinstate the proposals of the international rationalism and synthesize objects which are, still today, symbols of our daily lives.
The BICAChair has become an icon of the Portuguese industrial aesthetics. It’s popularity within Lisbon terraces goes back to the 40s, and has granted it a place on the Collection of the Lisbon Museum of Design and Fashion (MUDE) as a symbol of the Portuguese culture.
The story of BICAChair goes back to the early 20th century. At only 22, Gonçalo Rodrigues dos Santos was a proud Master Craftsman. Very young, he decided to establish himself in Lisbon, Portugal, and open its own workshop. In those early days, Master Gonçalo and his dozen workers crafted and handmade a little bit of everything, depending on the client’s orders. These included clamps for machine belts, heels for women’s shoes or even fruit juicers.
The famous metal chair came after. Because of his brother, Master Gonçalo visited France many times and there was where he got inspired.
After the first drawings of the chair, the Master found his first craftsmanship problem: Bending an iron tube. Studying came next, more drawings, experiments – with sand, led or fire. Days, weekends, week in and week out until he finally got it: his own design and invention – his own iron bending machine.
The Café ‘Chave de Ouro’, founded in 1916, was the first to order the new chairs designed and crafted by Master Gonçalo. The design was later perfected to balance comfort and aesthetics until the 50s, where it got its final shape.
By that time, its rustproof, robust and stackable features conceived by Master Gonçalo found their place directly on café terraces and in public parks all across the country.
Today, BICAChair has become a symbol of the Portuguese tradition to gather families and friends around a table, enjoying a finely brewed cup of cappuccino, sharing moments. This iconic chair
At the tender age of 13, Serafim began what would become his life work. Under the legendary master Gonçalo Rodrigues dos Santos, Serafim commenced an apprenticeship and started down the road to becoming a full fledged craftsman.
Of all the varied creations produced by the master, the one that stands apart is one award-winning chair which reached its peak in the late 60’s, but in fact was designed in secretly since the 1940’s.
Master Serafim, who at the time was already the right hand man of the his mentor, was the only one who knew the initial plans and process behind the design of the chair. This showed a total confidence and trust of Master Gonçalo for Serafim, as well as a strong link between the two skilled craftsmen.
Today, at 83 years of age, Master Serafim is the living memory and faithful keeper of a secret that has become an icon of Portuguese design. It is with an almost parental pride that he watches the the continuation of work done, by the hand of designer Alexandre Caldas, but this time to spread BICAchair and its amazing story to the world
We, through his memory and life spent next to a visionary design master, we have the possibility and the duty to tell this emblematic story of Portuguese design, bringing back the best of our art always with a extremely quality.
Its design was purely a result of empirical analysis. At that time, one of the amazing innovations was the invention of the bending machine, which Master Gonçalo perfected to shape the elegant curves needed to minimize the number of welding points.
In those days, ergonomics was a matter of seating workers in the prototypes and then assessing basic features like comfort and the ability to stack multiple chairs. Within decades of trial and error, the result is one the most reliable chairs ever made.
Today, this process is still handmade by our expert craftsmen.