Design in cork by ExperimentaDesign for Amorim

Ten designers from Portugal and around the world were invited to develop 21 new objects made primarily from natural cork.

Experimentation with new materials in design traditionally seeks to break boundaries: cork, a vegetable material that covers the stems and roots of woody plants in the process of replacing the epidermis, has become the protagonist in a series of exercises in style by international designers. A living material that mainly features in the craft traditions of the western Mediterranean, cork not only represents one of the most amazing combinations of properties to be found in a natural raw material but also has the extraordinary characteristic of not being replicable. Cork is presented in a contemporary guise at the 2011 Furniture Fair by the new Portuguese brand Materia. Responsible for the restyling is the team ExperimentaDesign led by Guta Moura Goedes who selected a handful of designers for the occasion that includes Filipe Alarcão— also coordinator of the project—Fernando Brízio, Miguel Vieira Baptista, Daniel Caramelo, studio Pedrita and Marco Sousa Santos, all from Portugal, along with BIG-GAME (Switzerland/Belgium), Inga Sempé (France), Nendo (Japan) and Raw Edges (Israel/UK). These designers have explored the myriad possibilities for making use of this unusual ingredient for the Materia collection, commissioned by Amorim , a leading manufacturer in the field on a worldwide level.

The Merry toy boats (for adults) from Swiss studio Big Game.
The Merry toy boats (for adults) from Swiss studio Big Game.
Guta Moura Guedes took up the challenge from the Portuguese company, bringing her incredible energy and professional experience to the project: "It has been a pleasure for ExperimentaDesign to put themselves to the test once more and with such a fascinating element like cork, bringing in these ten designers, interesting and prominent names from the international creative design scene. Inviting them to take part in a project like this for us has meant experimenting with and pushing the boundaries of what is today considered to be design. While from different countries, backgrounds and generations, the designers involved share a common approach to their work as signature pieces, giving rise to designs with a meticulous attention to detail that at the same time reflect a particular passion and dedication to the creative imagination and its infinite opportunities. Cork, an extraordinarily tactile and evocative material, has been a great inspiration for the various designers who have each articulated it according to their own artistic affinities. Nendo have created a series of bowls for the table, along with a salt and pepper set; Big Game have designed some cheerful toy boats (also for adults); French designer Inga Sempé has come up with some suspended containers that are fixed to the table while Marco Sousa of Portugal has designed coffee-tables also suitable for using around the swimming pool.

"Cork is a fantastic material, natural, sustainable and with a strong emotional profile, up until now its potential and possible applications have not been fully exploited", comments Guedes, who adds, "the intention behind the new Materia collection is to create simple and innovative objects with this material for everyday use. For all of us at ExperimentaDesign Materia has above all been an important opportunity to experiment with our curatorial knowledge and at the same time work with a big company like Amorim, introducing them to the world of contemporary design. We are convinced that this combination of creativity associated with the industrial capacity of a well-established manufacturer can have great resonance not only at a research level but also at a cultural level." ExperimentaDesign have managed the whole project, from the choice of designers to the corporate identity, the logo and the communication that follows Guedes's philosophy that design can address the infinite facets of everyday life and make a substantial contribution to improving it. "Design is part of our daily life; design is an extraordinary tool that can bring in and integrate the economic, functional, aesthetic, emotional and social aspects of all creativity and therefore life. It is a matrix that can be used to read different contexts, respond to questions and supply the best solutions."

Project  by Portuguese designer Daniel Caramelo.
Project by Portuguese designer Daniel Caramelo.
It is worth pointing out that cork is a flexible material—compressible, impermeable to liquids and gases, resistant but also light and buoyant. It is also biodegradable and 100% recyclable. Despite high output and production efficiency, cork is also extraordinarily sustainable in environmental, economic and social terms. Materia is a challenge presented to ExperimentaDesign by an enlightened company that seeks to underline the value of contemporary creativity and at the same time, with the help of design, elevate cork to the level of an excellent material for everyday use.

Design is part of our daily life; design is an extraordinary tool that can bring in and integrate the economic, functional, aesthetic, emotional and social aspects of all creativity and therefore life. It is a matrix that can be used to read different contexts, respond to questions and supply the best solutions.
French designer Inga Sempé realized suspended containers which are anchored to the table.
French designer Inga Sempé realized suspended containers which are anchored to the table.
So what next? Guedes adds "I can't go into detail but we are already working on the next project, still with cork but with a greater emphasis on research and experimentation; we are inviting not just designers but also well-known architects to work with us. It is not a new brand like Materia but this new project will reinforce even further the value of this material pointing once again to creativity and innovation." So could we expect to see cork as the basis for architectural elements?
Maria Cristina Didero
Portuguese designer Marco Sousa imagined a coffee-table suitable for the pool.
Portuguese designer Marco Sousa imagined a coffee-table suitable for the pool.
Materia
13–17.04.2011
Spazio Sanmarco, via San Marco 38, Milano
Nendo created a series of bowls for the table, as well as salt and pepper shakers.
Nendo created a series of bowls for the table, as well as salt and pepper shakers.
Portuguese designer Miguel Vieira Baptista’s project.
Portuguese designer Miguel Vieira Baptista’s project.

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