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Alexander von Vegesack: A warm welcome to the world of cork

France 3/7/2020

Alexander von Vegesack is the founder of Domaine de Boisbuchet, the international research center for design and architecture, and a longtime friend and partner of Corticeira Amorim. In this testimonial, he shares the memories of his first encounter with the world of cork, highlighting some of the reasons behind his longstanding relationship with Amorim.

The lady receiving me at Amorim's door was Cristina Amorim, who had been kindly introduced to me by Guta Moura Guedes, then working on Lisbon's EXD biennial. Cristina showed me the company - passionately, open-heartedly and most curious about any possible connection to my world of design, architecture and the museums. She introduced me to her team around Carlos de Jesus, the facilities, and first and foremost to cork – as it showed that I had never been really introduced to the wonders of this material. I began to discover and admire cork as much as I began to understand what an amazing business this family team is running.

Cristina remained my partner for many projects that followed up. She visited me at the Vitra Design Museum, where I introduced her to Vitra's CEO Rolf Fehlbaum, and also started to talk about cooperations in and around the workshops I had mounted in France. Here, at the Domaine de Boisbuchet, we soon after launched a competition for innovative products made of cork, which was answered by several hundreds of entries – some from internationally well reputed designers.

Our friendship and conversations proved to be inspiring both of us, I believe, and contribute to shared efforts to replacing polluting materials by making use of cork's manifold, most efficient properties. We thus continued to invite designers and architects as well as companies such as Renault or Corning to take part in our research and experiment with cork in Boisbuchet's workshops. Amorim was always with us – understanding, critical, and most generously acting as a real friend. But at the same time, they clearly assumed responsibility in a much larger, humanistic perspective.

As a start, Amorim uses the wonderful tradition of the Portuguese to engage productively in other cultures. Curious and enterprising, yes courageous, the company looks internationally for new ideas and partnerships and invites the world to get to know the richness of its own culture. It thereby succeeds time and again to try out new techniques and applications yet never losing its authenticity. In this way, Amorim not only opens up new markets for itself through museums, universities, artists, designers and architects, but also motivates other industries as well as the arts and sciences to new methods and ways of thinking.

The sustainability of cork production, which has proven itself over centuries, is a lifeline of this company and makes Amorim a role model for others. But the responsibility of family management towards the land and the people is an equally important source of this enterprise, from which ideas, actions and products are developed over generations. Both fit together and both fit perfectly in our time as examples of ecological and social behavior, for a thinking in global contexts and in the awareness of the large time periods on the one hand, and on the other for actions that drive the natural and human conditions on site to cultural blossom. “Think globally - act locally” - the world should be filled with such undertakings.

Alexander von Vegesack, founder of the Domaine de Boisbuchet, France