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CINCO x CINCO concocts a series of objects that are The Sum of Small Parts
Sum of Small Parts by CINCO x CINCO
Image: Courtesy of Achach Fotografía and Design Week Mexico

CINCO x CINCO concocts a series of objects that are The Sum of Small Parts

The Guatemalan firm’s playful and interactive collection including a lamp, a bar cart and a chair, can be easily assembled and disassembled—and transported in a standard 25 kg suitcase.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : Feb 01, 2023

The abrupt standstill that the world collectively encountered with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic forced humanity to step back and calibrate. This two-year-long screeching halt was accompanied by agony and restlessness, but on the flipside was a hidden opportunity. From the mundane whirlwind of life and the bustle of the cities being an unsaid ritual, the world segued into a milieu of forgotten silence and people stood eye to eye with something that had backslid into unfamiliarity: their own voice. This unanticipated tête-à-tête that confronted communities across the globe brought into being a space to reconnect with one’s own thoughts and emotions—a space that yielded countless ideas and narratives in the sphere of art and design. This collection of lighting and furniture design was inspired by the same moments of uncertainty that prompted us to reflect on moments of comfort.

Conceived in 2019, CINCO x CINCO is a Guatemala-based multidisciplinary collective made up of five young and diverse creatives. Together, they imagine, design and manufacture pieces of utilitarian design infused with art in limited editions. Their third and most recent collection, dubbed The Sum of Small Parts, a troupe encompassing a lamp design, a bar cart and a chair design, was conceptualised in Guatemala City during the lockdown—when going to the supermarket was a feat and gatherings of more than two people were illegal. Each limited edition piece can be completely disassembled, inviting users to participate in construction and stride towards the end product or the sum of all parts. “This collection allows us to visualise the possibilities and opportunities of materialisation when we think of five muscles that work in alignment. Unlike a process and an individual presentation, we can think of more complex, challenging, and experimental pieces, relying on the experience and professional knowledge of each one of us,” says fashion designer Sofía Contreras-Paredes of CINCO x CINCO.

The five members of the collective, namely Maria Cecila Diaz, Esteban Paredes, Sofía Contreras-Paredes, Manuel Rionda, and Mauricio Contreras-Paredes, come together from divergent backgrounds akin to tributaries merging into a larger stream; each brings a different perspective to table owing to their varied professional backgrounds including entrepreneurship, architecture and interior design, fashion design, photography, visual art and anthropology respectively. Their oeuvre displays a characteristic meticulous yet playful design process, quality raw materials, exquisite craftsmanship, and the amalgamation of industrial and technological processes to generate unusual finishes. “At the end of the day, the core of our collective is collaboration. Collaborating with each other, with local artists and communities. We strongly believe that as a group, working together we can reach further, help more artisans and promote Guatemalan design, as opposed to doing it on our own,” shares fashion photographer Rionda.

What started as a digital design process in the midst of a pandemic gradually took shape as the restrictions slackened and the team began to meet. In isolation for nearly a year, they dreamed and imagined the return to open spaces, and parks, and experiencing fresh air and nature. Comforting memories such as those of childhood and its delights—going out to play, building the imagination, carefree moments, and a safe distance from worldly problems—became a refuge. Imminently, the forms and shapes that came to life embody glimpses of playgrounds, especially the shabby metal structures found in a Latin American park. Industrial shapes, vintage aesthetics, and garish colours, speak of the childhood of the members of the collective. In developing the final product designs, these mental portraits were refined, decolourised, and modernised—bringing sensual pieces of chromed metal to fruition. “Our concept evolved towards our feelings and emotions during the pandemic; we drew inspiration from the human experience, and how children interact with playgrounds—an idea that felt very impossible during the lockdown,” explains architect and interior designer Esteban Paredes.

The designs also showcase handcrafted elements typical of Guatemala—a tribute to their place of birth. “Design in Guatemala is a blank piece of paper, and there are endless possibilities to explore and share with the world,” says entrepreneur and hand-made consultant Diaz. The lamp, for instance, employs pendant charms made with Chinautla clay, a type of traditional clay, worked and fired by small communities living in a ravine, aloof from industrial production. The bar cart invites users to serve appetisers and wines on certified Conacaste wood trays, a valuable hardwood sourced from the north of the country as well as the plains in the coastal south. Working with this wood is a delicate process, even dangerous for the untrained, since sanding it produces toxic fumes. The chair utilises recycled cotton fibres weaved with backstrap looms, resulting in textiles that are entirely handmade and sustainable. The knotted texture is derived from a technique designed to preserve the heat of the food, transforming its function and palette.

During Design Week Mexico in November 2022, CINCO x CINCO’s The Sum of Small Parts was chosen as the winner of the Inédito Award making it the first Guatemalan firm to earn this accolade. This milestone, according to visual artist and anthropologist Mauricio Contrera Paredes, “breaks the predominant paradigm within the creative and design industries in Guatemala that the pursuit of creation is a lonely, ego-driven endeavour. It demonstrates that collaboration and creative synergy exist, and are welcomed among more sophisticated and mature markets abroad.” By devising engaging designs that can be disassembled and accommodated in a standard 25 kg suitcase, the collective caters to people who inject passion into their spaces—allowing a greater spectrum of connoisseurs to attain exclusive pieces without sacrificing quality, process, impact, and history.

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