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May 2012

“Le Liège sur son 31”

Le liège sur son 31

Marie Le Fort

Cork. What about it? It’s lightweight and waterproof, it floats and does not burn. Baring no trace of scratches or blows: cork can handle all efforts to tarnish it. In short, it is impenetrable.

If the use of cork dates back to the dawn of time (Portuguese fishermen used to prepare small sealed boxes of them that they would bring on board), then the ancient tree has been making a comeback on the design scene in recent years. Used in 2007 by the champion of minimalist design, English designer Jasper Morrison used it to make a chair and a series of mono-material stools for Vitra Edition, displaying its strength and functionality. And thus, the craze for cork was born. Since then, the indestructible material has found its acclaim. From Louboutin stilettos and Rupert Sanderson platforms, to insulation cups, mats and chairs – cork has been invited into all creative environments. It’s hard to believe there was life before cork!

Revered by ecologists for its natural properties, we must remember that originally it was used to protect us from fire, against which oak has developed a defense: a flammable bark that allows the tree to survive a fire. Since then, we have continued to discover its extensive properties, like its elasticity. A mossy wood, its extremely fine structure is composed of forty million bubbles per cubic centimeter, which are invisible to the naked eye and enable it to resist compression and return permanently to its original form – a trait that inspired French designer Martin Szekely. Exhibited at the Galerie Kreo a few seasons ago, his simple collection of boxes – made up of a desk and his cabinet, storage modules and a coffee table – highlighted “the lightness and the soft feel of cork, its ability to absorb physical and acoustic shocks. In the case of these ‘boxes’, the cork acts as a protective layer which makes the content impenetrable to anything outside,” explained the designer.

For Swiss designer Tomas Kral, the functional joined the fun. In his design entitled Clown Nose, the cork simply closes a pitcher – a nod to the millions of bottles sealed with the precious material – to appear as if Bozo’s nose crossed with ceramics! Working its way into structure, cork forms the base of a lamp, a tabletop or a streaked container for the Plug collection, produced by the young design house from Madrid, PCM. The same principle was used by Guillaume Delvigne at Specimen Editions with Deneb, a hybrid “vase-tray-empty-pocket.”

In this two-tone, and bi-material encounter, cork shows a principle that is exclusive to raw materials. “A material that is as elastic as it is matte and textured, cork shines in the art of making others shine, like porcelain and precious metals. A zealous and discreet guest, it exudes an Asian harmony of materials, colors and finishes,” says interior designer Marie-Christine Dorner in a statement entitled “Le Liège sur son 31”. Cork, in brief, is dense with timelessness.


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