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Brazilian designer Sergio Rodrigues dies at age 86

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Celebrated Brazilian designer Sergio Rodrigues, whose “Mole” armchair is among the most iconic pieces of Brazilian mid-century design, has died. He was 86 years old.

Rodrigues' secretary, Carla Claro, says Rodrigues died of liver failure Monday at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

A Rio native, Rodrigues studied architecture before turning to furniture design. According to his official biography, he designed more than 1,200 different pieces of furniture, though none would prove as enduring a hit as his “Mole” armchair, the name of which means “soft” in Portuguese. Created in 1957, the award-winning chair has a squat wooden frame topped by interlocking leather pillows fitted with thick straps.

The design garnered the top prize in the Cantu international furniture competition in Italy in 1961. In 1974, New York's Museum of Modern Art acquired a “Mole” armchair for its collection, the biography said.

Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos, a historian specializing in Brazilian design, said the “Mole” represented a “great revolution.”

“The imperious desire to conceive of a piece of furniture that would express national identity led Sergio Rodrigues to a design that defied the existing styles,” the biography cites Santos as saying.

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