In Porto, Estudio Além clads Sportino’s Store 3P in blocks of local cork

Blocked Out

Sportino’s Store 3P

Cork is a familiar material surrounding us in various forms: bottle stoppers for wine, bulletin boards with to-do lists, and the support on the soles of our shoes. Whatever the case may be, cork is a versatile material originating from the bark of cork oak trees where Portugal reigns as the world’s largest exporter. Keeping this in mind, Spanish firm Estudio Além wanted to tie the design of Sportino’s new Store 3P in Porto, Portugal, with the local material. As the studio described via a project description, “The cork used in the store has been extracted from [cork oaks], respecting the cultural and territorial roots and integrating the local identity to preserve the historical heritage.”

cork shelves at Sportino’s Store 3P
Cork blocks clad the store while offering shelving system for the retailer’s shoes and clothes (Oleh Kardash)

cork shelves at Sportino’s Store 3P
The near mono-material design creates an austere and striking interior (Oleh Kardash)

As visitors enter the 3,315-square-foot (308-square-meter) shoe and clothing store, they are immediately immersed in a rich, dark brown cork envelope. The design team took this impermeable material and completely encased Store 3P’s interior through self-supporting cork blocks, creating a minimalistic background and allowing Sportino’s footwear to pop. “The constructive composition of the store is based on the stacking of expanded cork blocks, thus reducing the architecture of the store to a minimum,” the firm continued. “A system is created where matter becomes structure, support and space, and the logic of the materials solves the configuration of the store.”

steel walls with cork shelves
Stainless steel details add to the raw, deconstructed design of the store (Oleh Kardash)

cork shelves
The cork blocks are assembled with pieces of agglomerated wood fibers, allowing the blocks to be separated at the right distance to place the footwear (Oleh Kardash)

Although the store embodies a simple rectangular structure, Estudio Além designed the floor layout to include five curved display sections that are a welcomed contrast to the stringent, agglomerated wooden shelves along the store’s main geometric cork grid. These curved display cases also act as a path for people to navigate the various sections of the store.

A circular volume is clad completely in stainless steel (Oleh Kardash)

steel niche at Sportino’s Store 3P
The all-steel niche is a material departure from the rest of the space (Oleh Kardash)

While walking through the space, little pockets of stainless steel can be found through the tubing where clothes are hung and the accented rims for the curved cork elements. These little shiny silver glimpses continue to accumulate as one walks toward the back of the store, where there is a room coated in stainless steel.

cork dressing room at Sportino’s Store 3P
The dark cork obtains its color without additives as the designers used expanded cork, a method that subjects the material to thermal roasting (Oleh Kardash)

looking from steel room out toward main store floor
The spaces within the store are concatenated along a diagonal axis that runs the length of the floor (Oleh Kardash)

Estudio Além’s goal was to provide a new approach to sustainable retail design through a simplified approach built from local materials, both a similar yet visually different approach to a different Sportino store, Store IG. The design team took this method and ran with it as they designed an entire store—one block at a time.