In fact, it is cork. An increasing number of architects and home designers are using cork for more than décor, including roof cladding, insulation, and flooring.
Architect Tom Surman, principal and co-founder at London-based firm Surman Weston, tells The New York Times, “It is a sort of a wonder product in terms of sustainability. Before we researched it, we didn’t realize how sustainable it was.” Along with a green roof of wildflowers and birch plywood in the interior, the firm used cork to clad the exterior of the Cork Study, a garden studio for a couple in North London. The design was shortlisted in 2017 for a Royal Institute of British Architects award. “It can do so much as a building material... It offers thermal and acoustic insulation. It’s weatherproof. It’s lightweight.”
In Berlin, the architectural firm Rundzwei recently completed a residential project called the Korkenzieher Haus, or Corkscrew House. Shaped by strict size regulations, the four-bedroom, four-bath home features a staggered spatial arrangement with a sunken lower level including the master bedroom with direct access to an outdoor lap pool. A sculptural central staircase in timber spirals up through the multiple levels, culminating in a pitched skylight. Together with these features, the home takes its name from its facade and roof, clad entirely in cork.