Studio Corkinho, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Antwerp, focuses on cork’s sensory possibilities, centred on its purest expression, and elevates it to the category of a work of art. The simplicity of this material, and its umbilical connection to nature, provide a gateway to an atmosphere of stillness and tranquility, as embodied in the STILL collection, where cork is combined with other materials to reveal its full nobility.
Two designers from Antwerp have fallen in love with cork. What is your very first memory of this material?
For a design contest, I was looking for a genuine natural material with unique properties in terms of tactility and sound absorption. Our research led us to cork. So we decided to return to the source.
Our first visit to the cork forest at harvest time was really magical. The discovery of the culture of cork, in its purest simplicity. We spent several days with the farmers, taking photos of them and of small poetic fragments, sensing the heritage and experiencing a life where time seems to stand still, in complete harmony with Mother Nature.
You know cork so well, does it still surprise you as a material? Why?
We are still only beginning to understand all the benefits of cork, how to use them, and how to ennoble this material, in line with our design philosophy of “rebirth”.
We’ve set up a “cork lab” in our studio in Antwerp, where we push the limits of the material by mixing it with other natural materials, or manipulating it to create a new “patina”. It’s a very intense interaction between our inspiration, and the way that cork reacts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s purely experimental. But we want to innovate with cork in order to elevate its sensorial perception.
What do you value the most about cork?
Most of all, its natural source and its cyclical dynamism. It is a natural material, fully sustainable, used in so many different ways, with so many properties.
Also the way that it can be manipulated, thanks to deep understanding of its composition. We want to requalify cork in the worlds of interior design and architecture. To use cork in its purest massive expression. As a solid mass coming right from Mother Earth.
To take distance from excessive use in the mass-design-industry, and sculpt the material as a work of art.
What kind of contribution do you think cork can make to contemporary architecture and design?
To elevate the awareness of how to integrate pure nature within contemporary interiors. We notice that lots of people are still sceptical about cork. They relate it to cheap, playful design, or they don’t really trust since they prefer to work with oak or marble…
We want to create a platform where cork doesn’t look like cork … and let clients discover how this material feels, how it forges a dialogue with the space, how it generates calmness through its absorbant properties … that way it becomes more an atmosphere rather than just a “natural” material.
What is the potential of 3d moulding techniques for cork, in your opinion?
We haven’t yet tested 3D moulding, but we feel pretty amazed by this technology. Bridging craft with technology is always inspiring. Mixing up modern techniques with a material that has a strong heritage can only bring new ideas.
We feel closer to craftsmanship, sculpting … the poetry of working with our hands… But for certain projects, 3D moulding can be really interesting.
What can you tell us about your latest collection, STILL? What was your intention?
STILL is our signature atmosphere. We requalified a maritime heritage building in the Harbour of Antwerp into a contemporary monastic room. To elevate stillness in a contemplative atmosphere. We’ve been designing new collections - from low tables to wall units to sculptures, in order to propose a destination for meditation.
I’ve been travelling around the world to study the “architecture of silence”. How silence can influence our wellbeing, and create a holistic approach from the architectural void. Especially nowadays, humans need to anchor themselves with a higher purpose. The path to this self-growth, involves being able to connect with inner silence. My feeling is that silence has the potential to be the currency of the 21st century.
Using cork in the room, has an enormous influence on the stillness of the atmosphere. We organise meditations for companies, and private clients. They all love it.
Beyond being a design studio, our higher purpose is to bring wellbeing to our clients. Guiding them towards a deeper level, and share it with the world.
“Using cork in the room has an enormous influence on the stillness of the atmosphere.”
What is your dream project with cork, yet to be done?
Building a holistic STILL retreat, a kind of “thermal spa for the mind”, that could be a creative approach to illustrate how cork can be used in its purest sense. Elevating cork in a museological, hospitality project, strongly connected to its source where humans from all over the world would come to enjoy stillness to learn, rest, grow and meet inspiring spirits in a community where time seems to stand still, where rituals are initiated to slow down, connected to a bio-dynamic farm, in order to spend a magical time, take part in some workshops, experience how real freedom can change the way we perceive the world.
About Studio Corkinho
The studio recycles cork waste to produce original new product ranges, including flower vases, bowls, "vide poches", placemats and many other 100% natural and organic interior design objects. The goal is achieve a strong connection between nature, the object, interior design and architecture.