A design guide for Montevideo

Make this South American city your next design destination.
Copenhagen, Bilbao and Berlin may be the first cities that spring to mind as pioneering contemporary design, but Montevideo’s unique makeup as a melting pot of various cultures has given it a cutting edge. While Montevideo’s neoclassical architecture, leafy plazas and riverside promenades hark back to a bygone era, the dynamic Uruguayan designers living and working in this small South American city are propelling it into the future as a design hub. With inspiration around every corner and an easygoing pace of life, it’s no surprise studios want to set up shop in Montevideo.

Rosina Secondi

Founder of Estudio Claro

What defines the city’s style?
Montevideo is characterized by the coexistence of art-deco architecture and views of the horizon across the entire city. This is what gives the capital its identity. It’s a city that doesn’t oppress; on the contrary, it lets you breathe. Its sweeping visuals are seen not only in the well-known Rambla but also in the boulevards, avenues and parks. The majority of neighborhoods are formed by low buildings, without skyscrapers, which means Montevideo is generally a low-lying city that exists at a very human level.

How would you describe Uruguayan design?
It is a mixture of our own culture with a knowledge of what happens abroad. The honesty of the natural materials and resources that surround us makes it special. We have a lot of contact with the artisan, which brings us very close to the process of creation. At the same time, our design is influenced by European culture. In furniture design specifically, studios have created a space for a strong collaborative work ethic, which generates a synergetic relationship between different designers. This teamwork has raised Uruguayan design up to fulfill its own particular identity; where we share the same vision and design objectives.

Why are creative people attracted to the city?
Part of the creative process is to find stimulation and inspiration. We are inspired by music, theater, people and their way of life. It is a process where we connect many different things in the search for originality. The city gives you creativity as there is no end to the potential inspirations out here. In the city, we have more contact with people and that also nurtures creativity.

Where do you take your inspiration from?
We are inspired by ourselves, our lifestyles, our everyday and those who surround us. For us, it is important to identify with what we produce. That inspiration is combined with the materials we use in the workshops we run.


Claudio Sibille

Founder of Claudio Sibille

What is your favorite undiscovered spot in Montevideo?
The crypt of San Francisco de Asís church in Ciudad Vieja. Every once in a while, chamber ensemble concerts take place there and it is absolutely magical.

From where do you draw your inspiration?
I draw most of my inspiration from music. I always liked and studied classical music as a child. Let me put it this way: most of my designs have names that are somewhat related to classical music, whether it’s a surname such as the Chausson chair or a specific musical piece such as the Nimrod lounge chair (from Elgar’s Enigma Variations). As I reach the final idea of my design, I usually just choose the name of the musical piece that accompanied most of the design process. It is not only an easy way to name a product, but I believe it’s honest too.

What are the biggest influences on Uruguayan design?
Most of the population in Uruguay is of Spanish or Italian descent yet we are perfectly aware and proud to be South American. The European influence in our culture cannot be denied and is visible in our austere, more ascetic design style. This sets Uruguay apart from other South American countries, where contact with Native American culture and rainforests translates into much more organic, complex and colorful wooden forms. Brazilian design is a great example of the influence that Amazon culture has had on design.

What local shops or brands should visitors to Montevideo seek out?
Many great brands have been on the radar in the past years, but If I had to choose, I’d probably go for the ones that have accompanied me in putting Uruguay on the international design stage. Those brands would be Carolina Palombo Píriz, Claro, Diario, Menini-Nicola, Muar and Sámago.


Claudio Sibille’s Leo Lounge Chair

Claudio Sibille’s Leo Lounge Chair

Carolina Arias Bianchi & Federico Mujica Iturria

Founders of MUAR design

What defines the city’s style?
Montevideo is a small capital city with a calm pace of life. It offers a relaxed lifestyle, with more than 15 miles of coastline with good beaches and parks. As a small country with a history of migration, Montevideo has always been a city that looks outward at the world.

How does Montevideo inspire creativity?
The city’s rhythm and different cultural activities provide inspiration in the creative process. Great examples of art deco and modernist architecture are also fundamental sources of inspiration. We live in a neighborhood near the center of the city where you are likely to see children play and stroll along the Rambla. Contact with our neighbors is also common.

What drives your design?
We are inspired by our contact with the user and different artisans, with whom we collaborate on different projects day-to-day. We look at the world, new life dynamics and new materials and technologies. The architectural details of our city inspire the shapes and geometries of our work, which together with the use of different materials, form the environments of our projects.

What are the must-see design spots in the city?
The Old City’s buildings, the street of July 18, the deco and modernist architecture offered by the city. For urban design, follow the Rambla and seek out the works of the architects Fresnedo Siri, Raúl Sichero Bouret, Vázquez Barrière, R. Ruano and Vilamajó.


Agustín Menini & Carlo Nicola

Founders of Menini Nicola

How does Montevideo inspire creativity?
Montevideo is very small. Despite being Uruguay’s capital city, we still all know each other as we are just a million and a half people. That’s the reason for our thousands of interactions and it makes it really easy to stay in touch. Living opposite the river (Río de la Plata) and near the city’s art deco architecture helps inspire creativity also.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
Working a lot; that’s where everything starts.

Where is your favorite place to go in the city?
The coast because of the air, and it is where the city congregates.

What has been your favorite project?
Every project has its ‘bright side’ and, of course, an ‘ugly side’. Right now, we are working on a co-living project that is thrilling. Also, the last collection (Tropical Dream) gave us a lot of joy; somehow we could play again and just design the kind of furniture that we love.


Estudio Diario’s Haro clock

Estudio Diario’s Haro clock

Ana Sosa & Guillermo Salhón

Founders of Estudio Diario

What is the atmosphere of Montevideo like?
Uruguay is a country of European immigrants, and you can see this reflected in so much of the culture and in the architecture. Montevideo, in particular, is a city that is characterized by art deco.

What is it that makes Uruguayan design special?
The principal characteristic of Uruguayan design is simplicity in form, in production and the technology used. The Uruguayan designer has to accept that there are certain limits on production here, and so when they start a project, they have to consider whether a product will be made locally or not. At the same time, the closeness in the country allows designers to have a close link with the different workshops they work with. These two factors mean that a shop has to produce products that are simple to make, with few pieces, few materials, but with a degree of aestheticism and careful finishes that attract a user.

Why are creative people attracted to the city?
They like the architecture and the configuration of the city a lot. Montevideo is a small city, with rather low buildings, and it is situated on the coast of the Rìo de la Plata. Those who visit particularly enjoy the friendliness of the people too.

Where do you take your inspiration from?
Our inspiration comes from the functionality and character of the Scandinavian model, which creates simple and timeless designs, keeping the focus on the studio and the combination of material and shape, while prioritizing constructive and aesthetic details.


ENMERH Famous Colonnade in Neoclassicism architecture of Theatre Solis in Montevideo

Theatre Solis in Montevideo

For more inspiration within reach of Conrad Punta del Este Resort & Casino, visit conradpuntadeleste.com


Digital Conrad Concierge and Complimentary Wi-Fi* when you book at conradhotels.com
*Standard Wi-Fi is free. Premium (if available) has a fee. Not free at properties with a resort charge