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Part I. Listen



Partner: Danny Lee


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Cork is a unique material that not only contributes to the local biosphere, economy, and cultural heritage in Portugal, but is also a source material for the global demand. Such local/global connection presented in a single material inspired me to research the systems around it, as well as its unique characteristics. The first part of this project is based on observation and research during a travel course to Portugal in 2018, exploring cork’s material and environmental realities.

The outer layer of the cork oak tree is harvested without harming the tree. When the tree reaches maturity at year 15, it will be harvested for the first time. Then it will be harvested every nine years. This process allows the trees to grow and maintain ecological balance.

The long life span and harvesting cycle also allow cork to become part of the Portuguese cultural identity because of generations of involvement with the harvesting process and other agriculture activity in the forest.

The process of cork production does not generate any waste. After the stoppers are taken out from the bark, the rest of the materials are granulated. They are bound with glue or heat for different products. What is left from the last process is burned as biomass fuel.



Listen is a public interactive installation that utilizes the acoustic quality of
cork with a simple form to provide a quiet space in Lisbon’s urban setting.
This structure allows people to stop and listen, experiencing the city in a
new way through sound.

The connection between materials and a place’s identity is the concept we
explored during the design process. How could a material that already has
various connections to the city create more interaction relevant to both the
individuals and the culture surrounding cork in Portugal?

The plaza in Intendente in Lisbon is a busy area where many people pass
by every day. Various activities happening around the plaza generate all
types of sounds: construction, cars, talking, etc. The form and material are
selected and designed regarding sound quality. Cork functions as a sound
insulation material to isolate the sound of the urban surroundings from the
inner space. The simple arch form fits the human body and congregates
the sound inside. Therefore, standing under the installation, you can feel a
moment of silence.

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