Interview with David Mares

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Interview with David Mares

Cork shelter conquers the world

Cork, innovation and Portuguese soul. Three factors underpinning the Cork Block Shelter project that conquered the world of architecture, the internet and admirers of ecological and environmentally friendly works. The creator of the project, David Mares, tells in an interview to APCOR News how he came up with the idea and the sensation of international recognition.

He won the prize in the competition of the Guggenheim Museum to vote online for innovative architecture projects (see box). How do you feel?

David Mares – it is an honour to win this competition which is, in my opinion, a very important one that is associated with two world renowned entities. I am very proud to receive the prize. It is recognition of my work, which is very important for a young architect.

Since it is a prize awarded by public vote, how do you explain getting almost 65,000 votes?

I think it is not only due to the fact it is a Portuguese project, made by a Portuguese, but also because it uses cork, which is a material that offers good thermal and acoustic insulation and is a good waterproofer. These characteristics are supplemented by the fact that cork is eco-friendly and that Portugal is the world’s largest exporter of this raw material.


Can you explain this project in more detail? How did the idea arise?

This project consists of a cork box with a degree of dynamism on the facades. What I mean by this is that the box can be opened to the outside, via a tear which allows the occupant to enjoy the views, or it can be completely closed giving peace and privacy to the occupant. The idea materialized gradually since the design process is quite dynamic. We never have an initial idea that then fully comes into being unchanged. The idea transforms over the course of the project.

Why have you called it “Cork Shelter”?

I actually called it “Cork Block Shelter”. This is because the fundamental concept of the project is a shelter of cork walls that are formed with the assembly of cork blocks in vertical struts.

Is cork a material you consider interesting in terms of architecture?

It is very interesting because it is a natural material which has excellent technical characteristics and it is a pleasant texture to view.

Have you thought about putting this project into production?

I have. It is all still very vague although there has been some interest in putting it into practice.

Do you have other projects in mind where cork also plays a part?

No. Not at this time.

Why do architects, in your opinion, generally not think of cork as a material to use? Do you think there is a lack of knowledge of the potential of cork?

Yes, maybe there is some lack of knowledge regarding this material.

The Shelter gained 65,000 votes

“CBS – Cork Block Shelter” is the name of the shelter built of cork by the architect David Mares and which won a competition of the Guggenheim Museum of New York. This museum of modern and contemporary art launched an international design challenge called “Shelter Competition” where all competitors had to send a 3D project of a shelter according to the rules of the contest – design a space for a single person to live in, draw it in Google SketchUp (a specific design programme) and place it anywhere on Earth through Google Earth. Following the ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright – the architect who designed the Guggenheim – the project should also be in harmony with the surrounding countryside.

The Cork Shelter was built entirely from cork and placed in Vale dos Barris, Setúbal – a region where we can also find a cork oak forest. The project of the young architect was first selected from among 600 projects from 68 countries. In the second stage, Cork Block Shelter and nine other projects were placed online for people to vote online for them, over a period of about one month. The Portuguese project won by earning nearly 65,000 votes. The runner-up, Gonzalo Raymundo, did not achieve over 20,000 votes.


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