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Cork at the forefront of modern life

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.

"Cork is extremely light and that is what really interested me in this case. Ever since this solution has been developed - which combines tremendous insulation capacity with structural capacity of resistance - it has become possible to apply it in countless situations."

"I think cork is extraordinary!"
João Luís Carrilho da Graça, architect

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.

The most recent and distinctive projects include the Lisbon Cruise Terminal, designed by the architect João Luís Carrilho da Graça, whose walls and façades are composed of an innovative material that combines concrete with cork - which is 40% lighter than traditional concrete and incredibly beautiful.

There are also high-profile and impressive projects such as the Pavilions of Portugal in Expo Hanôver 2000, designed by the Pritzker Prize winning architects Souto Moura and Siza Vieira, and Expo Shanghai 2010, designed by the architect Carlos Couto, awarded with the Design Award by the Bureau International des Exhibitions.

In 2012, the Herzog & de Meuron architecture firm, also a Pritzker Prize winner, together with the Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, chose cork for the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London.

Jacques Herzog says that cork always fascinates visitors, because it is so "interesting and mysterious ... with great added value in terms of touch and smell".

Use of solutions from Corticeira Amorim in architectural projects include some of the world's most prestigious cultural venues, such as the Nezu Museum, Gotoh Museum, Sanda Concert Hall and Arie Korejiyo Hall, in Japan; the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, in Milan, the Lope de Vega Municipal Library, in Madrid, and the Pedro Arrupe college in Lisbon.

At the frontier between art and architecture, countless projects around the world emphasise the uniqueness and beauty of cork, while exploring the unique properties of this raw material - such as durability, lightness, shock absorption and thermal and acoustic insulation. Examples include: "One Two Three Swing", developed for the prestigious British museum, Tate Modern, in which the Superflex collective conceived a colossal cork installation for the Turbine Hall gallery, within the framework of the Hyundai Commission; the mega cork installation that occupied the main atrium of the Pavilion of Portugal, created for ArchiSummit 17, a project led by the architect, Manuel Aires Mateus; "A Square in the Summer", designed by the architect José Neves, a temporary installation in the CCB, in which cork was once again the protagonist in a sensorial and entertaining space, designed to ensure the comfort and enjoyment of visitors.

Although cork is used in an increasingly wide range of applications, its historical link to wine is undeniable. It is not surprising, therefore, that important wineries and wine cellars choose it as a solution, due to its insulation capacity or aesthetics. In Portugal, examples include the Quinta do Portal winery, designed by Siza Vieira, which received the Douro Architecture Award 2010/2011; LogoAdega, a project designed by the PMC Arquitectos team in the Alentejo, or Adega23, designed by the atelier Rua, in the district of Castelo Branco.

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

The choice by international design

For the brightest creative minds working in the fields of design and architecture, the physical properties of cork, as well as its sensory qualities, are a stimulating challenge that opens up a virtually endless array of applications. Based on this principle, Corticeira Amorim, in partnership with Experimentadesign, decided to launch Metamorphosis, a unique research and development project involving ten of the world’s most renowned architects and designers (including four Pritzker Prize winners: Álvaro Siza, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Herzog & De Meuron and Alejandro Aravena). Metamorphosis encompassed 10 innovative projects, ranging from construction industry solutions to items of furniture, that express the full potential of cork. With total creative freedom and technical support from Corticeira Amorim, the professionals presented avant-garde proposals, many of which have already found application in the real world, such as the concrete-and-cork composite used in the Lisbon Cruise Terminal.

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.

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.