Cork has unique properties that no technology is able to emulate, but recent advances in R&D and Innovation allow the high technical performance of this 100% raw material to be enjoyed like never before. The capacities of this material are exploited by designers, architects and engineers from a wide variety of sectors all over the world.
"Cork is a natural material, with wonderful haptic and olfactory qualities with the versatility to be easily carved, cut, shaped and formed."
Herzog & de Meuron, architects of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012
One of the most recent successes was the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, currently part of the private collection of renowned international collectors Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal. The project, by architects Herzog & de Meuron and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, is surprising for its creativity and for the fact that they used a raw material «so interesting and mysterious that few people really know what it is», says Jacques Herzog.
Cork has remarkable appeal. As in London, the curiosity aroused by cork moves thousands of people all over the world. In China, for example, the impact of the Portuguese Pavilion at Shanghai Expo, built entirely of cork, was mind-blowing. Likewise in Gaudí's Sagrada Família in Barcelona; in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Milan; in the Nezu Museum in Tokyo; in the Cape Town Stadium and in so many other cases where cork combines so well and innovatively with other materials.
"Cork is a material which is certainly worthy of attention in design. Its appeal lies in the combination of its old-world appeal and new-world technical capabilities."
In fact, the possibility to combine cork with other materials makes it a differentiating option and contributes to its increasing importance, not just in architecture, but also in areas such as design. The current challenge of bringing cork to the forefront of modern life has included great names such as Jasper Morrison, Inga Sempé, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. A preference which has grown to include prestige contemporary designer brands such as Vitra and Established & Sons. In fashion, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Stella McCartney, Dior, Manolo Blahnik, Costume National, Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci are proud to integrate it into their jewellery, clothing and footwear collections.
Hand-in-hand with state-of-the-art technology
Coupled with cutting-edge technology, cork increases product performance, comfort and prestige.
For example in cars - inside the Mercedes F700 prototype, cork as fine as leather was applied -, for the interior components for buses, in high speed trains and in airplanes.
It also plays an important role in building bridges and motorways, in power generation, railways, dams and airports. Also in pollution control, whether it is integrated into absorbents for oils, hydrocarbons or organic solvents, or projected as granules by compressed air to renovate monuments and the facades of buildings.
In sport, it maximises the performance of hockey balls, golf balls and baseballs, shuttlecocks, table-tennis rackets, dartboards, Olympic kayaks and surfboards. New and surprising uses arise every day from research: cork fabric, cork paper and cork wire are already a reality.
In health, it is used in vaccine adjuvants and soon it will be used in powder form in cosmetics, thanks to its hypoallergenic characteristics.
It is also being tested in bullet-proof equipment for its shock resistance ability. In cinema, as a result of its lightness, fine cork grains are used in special effects for explosions.
Cork is not just making its stand on Earth either. For decades NASA and the ESA - European Space Agency have chosen cork to protect the heat shields and plates lining their spacecraft, thus conferring to cork an important role in the the launch and successful operation of these vehicles.
It is the dawn of a new era of discovery, of an even more glorious horizon for cork and its possibilities, as endless as Space.
Blending Nature and advanced technology.
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