It is the material of Sahara itself that does the talking – or
whispering, rather. The wall panel created by Gabriel Tan is made
of cork, a natural material that offers excellent acoustic
properties. As simple and spontaneous as a sand formation
carved by the wind, its shape is the perfect starting point for
creating a multitude of patterns – from the asymmetrical to the
symmetrical, from geometrically strict configurations to dynamic,
random formations reminiscent of sand dunes.
The simple shape also permits the material to express its intrinsic
nature. Cork has a clear and distinctive character that is
restrained, yet expressive at the same time. And its innate
acoustic properties are excellent.
— To me, cork brings a certain rawness and authenticity to the
acoustic product category, says Gabriel Tan. I really like its touch
and texture. It reminds me of sand, which explains how I came
up with this design idea.
Tan’s creations for brands like Japan’s Ariake and Sweden’s
Blå Station have been getting a lot of attention. Although he
is based in Singapore, his works are profoundly cosmopolitan
– inspired by trips to other parts of the world, conversations
and collaborations with other designers, and encounters with
an array of cultures and craft traditions. Sahara is a case in
— A few years ago I was on holiday in Portugal and took the
opportunity to visit a cork factory. At the time I had no idea
how I might use the material; I was just curious. That’s how
I work. I travel, meet people, and gather impressions. I never
know how or when I might apply these experiences, but
eventually a project will emerge where I put them to use.
Sahara is made out of waste material from the production of
wine corks at a factory in Portugal. Cork production occurs in
harmony with nature; indeed, it helps to preserve Portugal’s
beautiful groves and forests of cork oaks, which in turn
provide essential habitat for the Iberian imperial eagle and
other wildlife. Without cork production, the country’s cork
forests would risk being replaced by farmland.