Martin Eisler (1913-1977) and Carlo Hauner (1927-1997) were the principal designers for the iconic Brazilian furniture manufacturer Forma. Rather in contrast to the leading titans of the Brazilian Modern movement—Lina Bo Bardi, Joaquim Tenreiro, Sergio Rodrigues, Jorge Zalszupin, whose designs skewed to the hand-crafted and bespoke—Forma’s catalog focused mainly in mass-production. Their accessible pieces are characterized by the use of Brazilian woods (often rosewood), thin tubular frames, and a wide-ranging offering from furniture to textiles and ceramics.
European-born, Eisler and Hauner share the same basic immigration pathway as contemporaries Zalszupin and Jean Gillon. Born and educated in Vienna, Eisler emigrated in 1938 to Buenos Aires, Argentina, before moving to Brazil in the early 1950s. Hauner— hailing from Brescia, Italy and educated in technical drawing at Milan’s Brera Academy—arrived in South America a bit later, in 1949. Soon after their respective arrivals, the two laid the framework for their flagship design firms: Eisler for Interiur Forma, which he founded in Buenos Aires with his brother-in-law, Ernesto Wolf; Hauner for Móveis Artesenal, which he established in Brazil, within a factory he purchased from Lina Bo Bardi and her husband, Pietro. In 1953, the two met for the first time, in São Paulo and were inspired to merge their production companies into one—the company which, after a series of name changes, eventually became Forma.
Highly ambitious and with an eye on the international market, Forma quickly blossomed into one of the biggest names in the Brazilian furniture industry. Alongside industrial-modernist designs of their own making—of which the Ivory Lounge Chair (ca. 1955), framed in black-painted iron, is most renowned—Forma introduced into the Brazilian market designs from the legendary international figures; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Charles Eames, Harry Bertoia, and even Knoll, were all featured in the Forma line through the latter midcentury.
While the depth and quality of their shared work has proved long-lasting—with Forma products in recent years experiencing a resurgence on the vintage market—Eisler and Hauner’s professional relationship was not. In 1958, supposedly spurred by his Italian wife, Hauner returned to Italy to open Forma di Brescia, which contributed designs to Rome’s Brazilian embassy and Vatican City, among others. He eventually sold his share of the Brazilian Forma, before settling in Salina, Italy—his home base until passing away in 1997. Eisler helmed Forma through its most prosperous years in the 1960s and 1970s, before he, too, passed away, in 1977.