When Jordi Bonet i Armengol suggested using cork flooring in the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, the reply was: «It's only for sealing bottles!» However, the architect responsible for continuing Antoni Gaudí's iconic work had long felt the comfort of cork in his own studio and was not dissuaded. Encouraged by the excellent thermal and acoustic properties of cork - of the utmost importance in this project - and for the expectation of durability and resilience, he also argued that it was a natural product, in perfect harmony with Gaudí's philosophy.
"Working with the V&A and architects FAT has given us the best cork floor I have ever seen."
Ben Evans, Director at London Design Festival
"It’s been a fascinating experience entering Amorim's world of cork. It really is a 21st century material, which has allowed us to work in a very different way. The design also makes use of the strong visual acoustic and tactile qualities of the material."
Sean Griffith, Director and co-founder of FAT
As was the case at the Sagrada Família, the myth that cork «is only to make stoppers» has been counteracted by the excellent performance of Corticeira Amorim's products in high profile projects in international architecture. Among the most renowned are, for example the Portuguese Pavilions at Expo Hanover 2000, by the architects Souto Moura and Siza Vieira, awarded the Pritzker Prize, and Expo Shanghai 2010, by the architect Carlos Couto, winner of the Design Award by the International Exhibition Bureau.
In 2012, the team, also awarded the Pritzker prize for the architecture of Herzog & de Meuron, together with Chinese visual artist Ai Weiwei, chose cork to design the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, in London. In each of these cases, cork fascinates visitors, because it is such an «interesting and mysterious raw material (…) with wonderful sensory and olfactory qualities», states Jacques Herzog.
Among endless references to the use of Corticeira Amorim's solutions in architecture projects are some of the most renowned cultural spaces in the world, such as the Nezu Museum, the Gotoh Museum, the Sanda Concert Hall and the Arie Korejiyo Hall, all in Japan; the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum in Milan, the Lope de Vega Municipal Library in Madrid and the Pedro Arrupe College, in Lisbon.
Although cork is increasingly less used exclusively for stoppers, its historical connection with wine is undeniable. It is therefore not surprising that important wine cellars and wineries choose it as a solution for closure or aesthetics. In Portugal, references using this option are Quinta do Portal, Douro Architecture Award 2010/2011, and LogoAdega, in the Alentejo. In the first example, the project was by the architect Siza Vieira, who used cork as an exterior covering to integrate the building into the landscape (a criteria that he would repeat in the aforementioned Portuguese Pavilion). In the case of LogoAdega, a project by the PMC Architects team, the choice of Corticeira Amorim materials was also an integral part of the exterior aesthetics of the building. It made such an impression that the project was nominated for the 2011 Building of the Year Award.
Architecture and cork have affinities that date back to the appearance of the concept of organic architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright, who is the greatest reference in this field, used it in his masterpiece Fallingwater, in the late 1930s. The USA's most famous architect was a cork enthusiast and chose it to cover some of the floors of the rooms of his most famous design. Cork not only made the rooms in the house warmer but also contributed to promoting harmony with nature - this was one of the major requirements of the original construction built on a waterfall, in the Bear Run Nature Reserve (Pennsylvania). Fallingwater, considered to be one of the most famous houses in the world, is now a museum which has already received over 4.5 million visitors since it opened to the public in 1964.
Cork perfectly adapts to current design trends and combines well with other materials. The embodiment of that versatility in this area is the MATERIA – Cork by Amorim collection, launched by Corticeira Amorim, under the direction of ExperimentaDesign. A unique and distinguishing collection resulting from the creativity of renowned national and international designers - such as Miguel Vieira Baptista, Raw Edges, Pedrita, Nendo, Fernando Brízio, Inga Sempé, among others – and the most advanced production technologies. The result is a collection of markedly designer cork items for everyday use, surprising and easily integrated into contemporary atmospheres.
The use of cork in interior spaces is a world trend, which has already been embraced by the creativity of some of the most renowned artists. Jasper Morrison, James Irvine and Daniel Michalik are just a few of the international designers who find in cork the material of choice for their furniture designs.
Even renowned organisations focused on modern and distinguishing materials seek solutions in cork for the most innovative design. Such is the case of the London company Established & Sons which together with Corticeira Amorim often tests the application of cork on its pieces. Also a reflection of the interest in this area is Vitra, which has long included cork in its collections. Recently, this well-renowned contemporary furniture brand actually transformed the exterior of one of its stores in New York into a summer landscape, using cork as the base product in chairs, seating and other objects. One of the most recent revelations of the Vitra collection is Cork Table, by the brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. It is a modular structure completely made out of cork, planned for an open-space office, which benefits from the innate properties of the raw material to increase comfort in working areas.
Cork's appeal is strong and captivating, which can be seen by the success of the «The Future of Cork Applications» competition, an initiative by Domaine de Boisbuchet, together with the Vitra Design Museum, carried out in partnership with Corticeira Amorim. The result was 367 proposals from established and upcoming artists, from 39 countries, which revealed new insights for the application of this raw material. Faced with the challenge for cork as a material of the future, Corticeira Amorim has worked with the most important design and architecture centres worldwide. In addition to Vitra, other examples are the Georges Pompidou Centre and the Royal College of Art, among other entities.