the new school's parsons school of design and corticeira amorim announce course partnership

Students will explore and discover new functions and applications for cork, and design ground-breaking products and solutions

Students at work in the "i.cork factory”, the innovation factory of Amorim Cork Composites in Portugal

New York, April 3, 2023 - The New School’s Parsons School of Design and Corticeira Amorim, the world's largest cork manufacturing group, announced a new partnership that will give students the opportunity to learn more about the benefits, qualities and characteristics of cork–a renewable material extracted from cork oak trees–for the design and development of their creative proposals in the fields of industrial design, architecture, arts and interior design, and more.

The main focus of the course will be on research, testing, investigation, experimentation and hands-on making, in order to discover new functions and applications for the material. Students will also design ground-breaking products and solutions that can provide a well-designed and sustainable response to the key challenges facing our societies. The mission will be to “design new futures.” The first initiative implemented under this agreement is the first edition of the course “The Thick Skin: Cork as Material for Design New Futures.”

The one-semester course incorporates a 45-hour theoretical-practical component, coordinated by Professor Daniel Michalik, and an immersive week in Portugal, from 13-18 March, held at the "i.cork factory”, the innovation factory of Amorim Cork Composites (ACC) - Corticeira Amorim's business unit that develops products, solutions and applications for some of the world's most sophisticated industries. 

The week provided a unique opportunity for the students of Parsons to interact with new processes, formulae and technologies for working with cork. Support is provided through involvement and mentoring from ACC's specialized technicians, the provision of state-of-the-art facilities and technologies, and the supply of raw material for experimentation. The initiative will also involve the ACC Design Studio, which is geared towards sharing knowledge, forming reasoned opinions, and educating people about the future of cork.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Corticeira Amorim for this innovative course that will challenge our students to rethink what they know about cork, inspire them to design unique pieces, and further their education around regeneration and circularity,” says David J. Lewis, Dean of the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons. “Parsons is committed to educating and training designers that create a positive social impact through the use of regenerative materials, and we can’t wait to see what this group of students will do with the world’s leading cork manufacturer.”

Throughout “The Thick Skin: Cork as Material for Design New Futures,” students will learn, assimilate and engage with different cork processing methods, expand their understanding of how natural raw materials are currently extracted, and propose circular practices to balance the use of materials with natural growth cycles. Students will also develop design processes that integrate well-established wisdom about the regeneration of the raw material and produce prototypes at different scales from the perspective of resources, constraints and imitation of specific materials. The course also features a broad range of synchronous design activities, including participation in lectures, co-design workshops, and more.

During their stay in Portugal, students were able to learn about the vertical integration process of cork processing implemented at Corticeira Amorim by visiting the different business units, with a visit to the Cork Oak Forest (Raw Materials business unit), Amorim Cork (Cork Stoppers business unit); Amorim Cork Flooring (Floor and Wall Coverings business unit) and Amorim Cork Insulation (Insulation Cork business unit). This initiative provided them with an integrated vision of the cork industry, the ground-breaking advances that have been achieved in the sector and the sector’s various products and by-products - integrated into a circular economy model, where all cork materials are valued. Of course, any cork-related initiative would be incomplete without visiting and learning about the Cork Oak Forest, one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. 

The collaborative project "The Thick Skin: Cork as Material for Design New Futures" is perfectly aligned with Corticeira Amorim's strategy to "disseminate cork’s unparalleled properties around the world, as a response to many of the challenges that are currently faced by the planet, humanity and contemporary societies", explains António Rios Amorim, Corticeira Amorim’s Chairman and CEO, who adds: "What better way to positively inspire citizens than by consolidating this work with the architects, designers and curators of tomorrow? The people who will design smart cities, green buildings, sustainable products, etc. When these professionals are trained at one of the world’s leading design schools, such as the Parsons School of Design, then you have found the right basis to foster this necessary paradigm shift: a new model, in which cork will undoubtedly play a central role.”

The works produced during the course "The Thick Skin: Cork as Material for Design New Futures" will be exhibited at the NYCXDesign Festival 2023. Students will be invited to showcase their work in an exhibition at Canal Street Market, on view from 18 - 25 May, 2023.

Parsons School of Design at The New School is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines, as well as online courses, degree and certificate programs. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.

About Corticeira Amorim
Corticeira Amorim is the world’s largest cork processing group. Founded in 1870, the company currently has dozens of business units distributed across five continents. It exports numerous products to more than 100 countries and has a diversified network of 29,000 customers. With strong sustainability credentials and a negative carbon footprint, Corticeira Amorim supplies a set of solutions, materials and applications to some of the world’s most technological, disruptive and demanding business activities, such as the aerospace, automobile, construction, sports, energy, interior design industries and the still and sparkling wines and spirits sectors. The company is managed by the fourth generation of the Amorim family, and cultivates the same values of longevity, ambition, pride, attitude and passion that have always underpinned the past 150 years of its successful history. The company annually invests millions of euros in R&D + I, generates 93% of its sales outside Portugal and employs around 5,000 employees. Corticeira Amorim’s mission is to add value to cork in a competitive, differentiated and innovative manner, in perfect harmony with Nature. In 2022, the company recorded €1.0214 billion in consolidated sales.


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Will Wilbur,
The New School

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