When does the mundane become the cutting edge? When in the hands of Fernando and Humberto Campana, of course. Known for transforming everyday objects (and even food) into furniture – notably their plush stuffed animal seats, which have garnered famous fans, including artist KAWS – the designing brothers don’t shy from working with uncommon materials.
As part of Experimenta Portugal – an annual cultural celebration and exhibition in São Paulo, in partnership with the Consulate of Portugal – the Campana brothers unveiled their first furniture collection made almost entirely of cork, one of Portugal’s main exports. Titled Sobreiro, the collection is comprised of one armchair and three cabinets, and is presented in collaboration with furniture manufacturer Época and the largest producer of cork in Portugal, Amorim. The collection will be on display in São Paulo until August 19.
A cork cabinet from the collection.
Nuno Sousa Dias
Though they are new to working with cork, the Campana brothers’ interest in the material is long-standing. “Cork fascinates us not only because it is an ecological material but because of its lightness,” Fernando and Humberto tell AD PRO via email. “The texture, variety of applications, and insulation enrich the possibilities of expressing, through this material, new concepts and gestures.” To this end, each piece utilizes the medium in a different way – the chair is pure cork, while one cabinet is a hybrid of cork and clay.
Carlos de Jesus, who heads marketing and communications at Amorim, explains that cork’s versatility in texture makes it especially appealing to designers; sometimes one can’t even tell that it’s cork at all. Sobreiro’s low armchair, for example, is rendered in a light-color, spongy cork – like a traditional wine stopper – while one cabinet is a textured espresso-brown with a nubby exterior. “The Campana brothers bring forth that multitude of textures and effects that cork can create,” says de Jesus. “I think its a true mark of a great design work…one looks like it’s made out of pebbles, and another is smooth and light brown.”
Aesthetics aside, cork’s sustainability is a key to its appeal. Cork is one of the most sustainable natural materials to harvest, most importantly because its trees never get cut down; every nine years, a tree’s bark is removed and turned into wine stoppers, shoes, furniture, and more. Cork forests are also havens of biodiversity, promote water regulation, and provide dependable jobs for agricultural workers. (The cork harvest is one of the best paid agricultural jobs in the world – workers earn around 100 euros per day harvesting cork in Portugal.) Plus, it’s 100 percent recyclable.
A cork cabinet with a wavelike pattern by the Campana brothers.