How This Antwerp Designer Uses Cork to Create Meditative Spaces of Silence
Wizened cork oak trees carpet the gently swelling highlands of Portugal’s Alentejo region, where Cédric Etienne, co-founder of the Antwerp-based design practice Studio Corkinho, is transforming a cork farm into an alternative healing retreat that will open in 2024 under the Slow hospitality banner. The project builds upon Etienne’s fascination with cork, a biodegradable, renewable resource with sound-absorbing properties that his firm uses as a primary material and source of inspiration. (He first became enamored with the medium after witnessing a cork harvest, a meditative tradition of stripping the bark from trees that takes place once every nine years.) Through the studio’s objects and environments, such as the multipurpose cork-filled Still Room (2020), built inside a 19th-century building in Antwerp that hosts events including yoga classes and tea ceremonies, Etienne aims to develop an “architecture of silence”—providing quiet, meaningful spaces that allow people to “listen to their inner voices without distraction, like [in] a Buddist monastery,” as he puts it. Here, Etienne talks about how he came to revere cork as a building material, and about its power to shape silence.