BD Barcelona unveils a new era for the company at Milan Design Week

The next generation at BD Barcelona, a brand renowned for its avant-garde portfolio, look set to shepherd it down a similarly bold path

BD Barcelona icons
‘Gaulinetta’ chair, by Oscar Tusquets; ‘Mettsass’ table, by Ettore Sottsass; ‘Gaulino’ chair, by Oscar Tusquets; ‘Xai’ side table, by Salvador Dalí; ‘Casa de Familia’ bottle, by Josep Maria Jujol; ‘Calvet’ stool, by Antoni Gaudí, all for BD Barcelona
(Image credit: BD Barcelona)

The story of the founding of BD Barcelona is the stuff of legend: a group of architects, hanging out late one night in 1972 at iconic Barcelona club Boccaccio, decided to start a design brand involving their artist and designer friends. Producing work by the likes of Ettore Sottsass and Vittorio Gregotti (then relative newcomers), as well as reissues of works by surrealist artists Antoni Gaudí and Salvador Dalí, Boccaccio Design (later renamed BD Barcelona) became a creative sensation. Its extensive catalogue has seen some of the world’s most celebrated creatives populate its pages, from notable greats like Álvaro Siza Vieira and Alessandro Mendini to more contemporary designers like Konstantin Grcic, Doshi Levien and Jaime Hayon.

BD Barcelona: 'our beginning was humble but showy'

BD Barcelona icons

 ‘Jamaica’ stool, by Pepe Cortés; ‘Table B’ desk, by Konstantin Grcic; ‘Gaulinetta’ chair, by Oscar Tusquets; ‘Dalilips’ sofa, by Salvador Dalí and Oscar Tusquets; ‘Binaria’ stool, by Jordi Badia and Otto Canalda; ‘Varius’ chair, by Oscar Tusquets; ‘Shiva’ vase, by Ettore Sottsass; ‘Chair B’ chair, by Konstantin Grcic, all for BD Barcelona

(Image credit: BD Barcelona)

The brand was originally founded by the members of architecture practice Studio Per: Pep Bonet, Cristian Cirici, Lluís Clotet and Oscar Tusquets (with Mireia Riera joining the company as interior designer). ‘We were influenced by Milanese architects,’ explains Tusquets, who had spent time in Milan as part of his work with architects Federico Correa and Alfonso Milá, visiting Triennale in his free time with Gregotti and philosopher Umberto Eco. ‘We noticed that Milanese architects were also designing objects and furniture, so we were inspired to create tables and chairs, but then nobody in Spain was interested in manufacturing our work. So when we completed our architecture studies in the 1960s, we decided to do it ourselves, produce our own projects.’ Their beginnings, says Tusquets, were ‘humble but showy: our designs were crazy!’

They found inspiration in Italian design not only as a creative entity but also as a business model, admiring ‘the Italian tradition of that fantastic dialogue between designer and manufacturer, a relationship based on respect and enthusiasm’.

BD Barcelona icons

‘Explora’ side tables, by Jaime Hayon; ‘Odyssey’ armchair, by Eugeni Quitllet; ‘Bracelli’ lamp, by Salvador Dalí, all for BD Barcelona 

(Image credit: BD Barcelona)

Over the years, the members of the founding team have left no design stone unturned: from reissues of Charles Rennie Mackintosh works to extruded aluminium airport-style seating, they put together a catalogue that enthusiastically mixed functionality with artistic expression.

‘If you grew up in Barcelona, their designs were everywhere,’ says Nacho Alegre, co-founder of design magazine, publisher and creative agency Apartamento. In 2022, he and fellow founders Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi, together with architects Pablo Bofill and Hernán Cortés of Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, and Igor Urdampilleta of Arquitectura G, acquired a majority stake in the company, working closely with Tusquets to revive the brand. ‘The old generation of BD are all in their 80s. They wanted to give the lead to the next generation, and they chose us,’ says Pablo Bofill.

Each of them has a personal story connecting them to the company. Having grown up at La Fábrica (the late Ricardo Bofill’s home located in an abandoned cement factory outside Barcelona), Pablo Bofill’s early life was filled with BD Barcelona designs. ‘For my family, there was BD and nothing else,’ he says. ‘It was not one of the references, it was the only furniture reference that was around. It has been part of my design education from birth.’ Urdampilleta, meanwhile, moved to Barcelona to study architecture in the early 2000s, and was so inspired by the work produced by BD that he became friends with Tusquets, who also became an influence on his work.

The future of BD Barcelona

BD Barcelona icons

(Image credit: BD Barcelona)

They insist this is not a financial operation (as Bofill puts it, ‘it’s not that we just decided to buy this company, we aren’t bankers looking for an investment’), but a way to work together and develop something creative as a group. ‘It’s a story of friends wanting to do something good,’ says Bofill. ‘This is an excuse for us to be together at an age when you don’t have so much time to develop friendships. It’s about working on a vision we all had.’

The company’s first outing in its new guise will be at this year’s Milan Design Week, with a redesigned brand identity by Apartamento Studios and an exhibition of historical works, showcased on a set designed by Urdampilleta, at the Milanese outpost of international art gallery Peres Projects. The future of BD is filled with excitement and plans that, for the most part, the group is not quite ready to announce yet. ‘Taking the catalogue as a reference, we hope to reach the same level of excellence as during the brand’s golden era, in the 1970s and 1980s,’ says Urdampilleta. ‘It’s not about rebranding but about redesigning and redefining.’ Some names that will form the new generation of BD include the likes of Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Max Lamb, Philippe Malouin and Sam Chermayeff. ‘It’s an excuse to be in touch with the people that we admire from our generation,’ stresses Bofill.

More ideas on the horizon include producing some of the archives’ most loved pieces (a series of reissues by Tusquets is planned for 2024) and adding new names to the roster, bringing BD to the forefront of contemporary design conversations. Says Alegre: ‘Now the game is to find our taste in common, and to have fun.’

Archival works by BD Barcelona will be on show from 17-23 April 2023, at Milan Design Week

Peres Projects
Piazza Belgioioso 2

A version of this article appears in the May 2023 issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.