Bryn Smith gets to know the collaborative team behind Chile’s gt2P.


Great Things to People

By Bryn Smith

Infused with origin stories, myths, and hidden meaning, the work of great things to People, a.k.a. gt2P, is often difficult to characterize. The objects they create are at once delicate and rugged; organic yet inanimate; ancient and contemporary—which is precisely the point. Formed in 2009 by partners Tamara Pérez, Sebastián Rozas, Guillermo Parada, and Eduardo Arancibia, the Chilean studio experiments with mixing digital fabrication and traditional, lo-tech knowledge; a concept they call digital crafting. The resulting practice produces everything from geometric bronze vessels to ribbed, undulating walls, modular furniture systems, and lighting clad in alpaca wool. Their latest work, called Less CPP, is a freestanding catenary pottery printer that liberates parametric design from the confines of a computer; physical variables like size, material, and dry time can be manipulated by hand, generating non-standard but familial pottery.

gt2P’s studio occupies a first-floor apartment in a quiet corner of Santiago known as Las Flores, or the “Neighborhood of Flowers.” It’s a pretty, residential area; on the weekends, the avenue in front of the studio is closed to cars, and local families use the space to bike and run and play. A brilliant burst of Bougainvillea cascades down the apartment building’s façade. Inside, the partners—three of whom met while studying architecture at the nearby Catholic University of Chile—plus team members Diana Duarte, Victor Imperiale, and Tomás Goméz, dream, design, and collaborate. No obsession is too small or far afield; inspiration comes just as easily from the geometry of local flora to the historical backdrop of Chile’s transition to democracy.

Bougainvillea in front of gt2P’s studio building Courtesy of gt2P Bryn Smith: What is the story behind the studio’s name?

Guillermo Parada: Our pieces are the result of the contributions of all the people involved in the collaborative network of the design process, both those who help us to create them and those who are attracted to them.

BS: How would you describe the studio’s approach to projects?

Sebastián Rozas: One of our friends described our process like a staircase. One of us builds the first step, another builds the second, and, like that, we begin to create connected ideas. At the end of the staircase we have the final project, but we can always change the order of the steps. That’s why we are called great things to People, and not Guillermo, Eduardo, Tamara, and Sebastián. We are not individuals; we are one.

Our projects often start with an obsession; as we share it, we give it shape. We aren’t used to working with a brief to create new things, and we don’t work within the limitations of a commission. It just starts—often without a name, or even a use. From there, we begin to create new things as a sequence or variation of the original. Only then might it become something functional.

One of us builds the first step, another builds the second, and, like that, we begin to create connected ideas.

BS: How would you describe your studio space?

SR: We purposely didn’t make it a traditional office or workshop; it’s a very creative space—more like a laboratory. And we work on every surface; for example, we use erasable markers on the tables as a quick way to explain our ideas to one another. And we have a “Wall of Wishes” where we put notes and sketches of things we are working on or dreaming about.

BS: How do you come up with the evocative names for your pieces?

GP: The names try to tell you an entire history in just one or a few words. For example, in the instance of Shhh the Hope Keeper [a 3-dimensional mural with openings that accept wishes or secrets written on paper from passers-by; the project is a reflection on the importance of leaving space for hope in our lives], Sebastián suggested an action. When you put the secrets in the cells, it is an act you must keep silent, so why not make the name “Shhh”? The Royal Mahuida [a collection of bronze vessels designed as tribute to the Incan empire; the geometric shapes were inspired by a native Chilean tree called the Araucaria] is a mix between Inca history and nature; the name means “Native Forest” in a language indigenous to Chile.

BS: The video for Less CPP, your newest project, features Brian Hyland’s “Sealed With A Kiss.” Why this song?

GP: It was a beautiful accident. We have a nanny, and every day we have lunch at home. Our nanny often tunes the radio to a romantic station. When we were filming the movie at our house we moved everything—every piece of furniture but the radio. It was still tuned to the nanny’s station. I try to never put music in videos. I like to listen to the real sounds of a place. For me, a video marks one point in your life, and it’s important to remember more than just the visual things. It’s really important to remember the sounds as well.

BS: The objects you create are often inspired by, or make use of, local materials. Why is this important to gt2P?

GP: This became important after our first trip to Europe. In the early stages of our studio, we considered creating everything through digital fabrication, but we soon realized that’s not completely possible or relevant. In Chile, there aren’t enough technological resources, and most of the digital processes we use require some kind of manual intervention. We discovered that our work acquires value when we mix technology with traditional craft, and we felt a responsibility to show this country to the world. Now we believe in a mixture of digital and craft. This way, we can breathe new life into traditional techniques. For example, there was a very large porcelain company here in Chile until China entered the market and destroyed the local industry. There’s so much knowledge dispersed in the city; so many artisans know about porcelain—about the ovens and the craft. We believe if we can include this knowledge and work with these people, we can maintain the tradition and keep this history alive.

BS: Where does that sense of responsibility come from?

GP: From our hearts. I believe that’s enough reason to do something. Presently, we are working on a new project called Losing My America for an upcoming exhibition called “New Territories: Design, Craft and Art from Latin America” at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. We are collaborating with artisans in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. The idea is for each contributor to create one representative piece that mixes digital technology and craft techniques, with special attention to process. We hope architects and designers will come to the exhibition and discover the techniques indigenous to Latin America, and will want to work with our communities. We want to show the world that Latin America has something interesting to offer, and we want to resuscitate local economies.

BS: How do you hope people will interact with your work?

GP: In many ways: Living in one of our spaces, seeing our work in an exhibition, using it. First, we would like to transmit an idea, or a history. We have an approach for the process, but not necessarily for the outcome. We like to think beyond how the product will be used, and we take great care in the production. How can we create a community, a network; how can we help people? Maybe in the future, we will be more driven by a brief, or by the needs of the final user. I know this seems strange, because every designer is thinking about the end user. Instead, we try to express an idea with design, and we try to help people, but it’s not necessarily the final user. For gt2P, they’re not the most relevant in the chain. I don’t know if that’s right, but it works for us.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

  • Interview by

    • Bryn Smith

      Bryn Smith

      Bryn is an independent writer, graphic designer, and critic based in Brooklyn. An avid consumer of culture, she writes about design for various publications, including Core77 and Print.