Galo Louco, Part 2: The Whistler (getting to know Portuguese designers)

Being interested in the issues of cultural identity, art&design and sustainability in Portugal, I have learned a lot recently, thanks to the research initiated at “Galo Louco”.

The Portuguese are probably well acquainted with these designers’ work, but for me they are wonderful new discoveries!

Every morning I have my cereals from the well thought-out and cleverly designed part of “The Whistler” collection, conceived by Raquel Castro. I chose it for its aesthetic qualities, not knowing anything about the background. But I researched a bit and here is the story behind it:

As we know, Portugal is the world’s major producer of cork, an environmentally friendly, reusable and recyclable material. This country produces about 50% of total world amount. An innovative practice of recycling cork has also been developed in Portugal. In 2008, the “Green cork” project was initiated, with the idea to recycle and reuse cork stoppers. The project started as a partnership between Corticeira Amorim and Quercus, the main Portuguese environmental association, and then spread to Spain, France, Italy and UK in Europe, as well as to USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The applications of cork seem to be endless: besides the use in architecture and building, clothing and footwear can be made of cork, as well as furniture and decoration. It is also used in the areas of health and beauty products, pollution control and even energy production. The possibilities for its new applications have been constantly discovered, too.


An outstanding, creative example I found in “Galo Louco” is the “Alma Gémea” (“Soulmate”) line of products that combines cork and ceramics – a result of cooperation between the most prominent cork and ceramics producers of the country. One of the collections within the line is named “The Whistler”, as an hommage to the biggest cork oak tree in the world, located in the region of Alentejo. The designer was also inspired by the traditional pottery of Alentejo. The cork part of the product was made of recycled cork stoppers. In this example, the sustainability issues and cultural identity considerations were brought together and interpreted in a creative process.

The Whistler tree is 230 years old, it is harvested every 9 years (next time in 2018), and the last harvest was enough for about 100 000 cork stoppers! Here’s the amazing tree:


Galo Louco, part 1

Every little step related to sustainability and green living counts, and a contribution can be made even during the journeys. One aspect of being a responsible traveler is choosing sustainable souvenirs. One of the great places  to get a sustainable souvenir in Porto is certainly the “Galo Louco”.

“Galo Louco” is a family-owned souvenir shop in the downtown Porto, with a refined choice of authentic Portuguese memorabilia and gourmet products. Even though the main idea of the range of products offered is to be of local origin and aesthetically pleasing, they are also implicitly based on the principles of sustainability.

The shop concept is based upon the ideas of uniqueness and authenticity. Being situated in the downtown Porto, the principle of uniqueness was essential to ensure competitiveness of the shop among many other souvenir shops in the vicinity. The owners also insist on the authenticity of the products – artifacts typical and informative of Portuguese tradition and cultural identity. All the products are thus of Portuguese origin, coming from the various regions of the country. Some of them are mass-produced, others are unique items, hand-made by craftsmen or designed and produced by local designers. Many items come from Porto and its vicinity.


The owners have established cooperation and support to a number of local and regional artists, designers and craftsmen. One aspect of their collaboration is developing new artifacts based on the owners’ ideas.

The owners have already done the statistical analysis of the customer structure for the past three years, showing that only about 65% of the customers were foreigners, while the remaining 35% were Portuguese. Many locals consider “Galo Louco” not just as a souvenir shop (with the main target group being, of course, tourists), but also as their favourite gift shop.

Most of the items are of small dimensions and affordable.

I discovered the “Galo Louco” shop  by serendipity during previous (tourist) visits  to Porto. Mrs. Carmen, the owner, has kindly answered me a number of questions I had on the history of the place, its concept and the items they have, and thus provided me material for the little project I am developing with a colleague, who is also a foreigner in Porto.

So, the shop was established as a family-run business about 3 years ago, after Mrs. Carmen had to quit her job as a civil engineer. It currently employs two people. A curiosity: the name (that means “crazy rooster”) is a result of a mishearing – originally, the name “Galo Lȗso” (the Lusitanian rooster) was chosen.

How can souvenirs, the artifacts purchased and taken home by travelers for a remembrance of the journey experience, be assessed in terms of sustainability? This is a topic to be developed over the next posts!

Just a hint: I bought a sustainable souvenir there myself, a piece from the Raquel Castro’s collection “Alma Gemea” (“Soulmate”), composed of a ceramic+cork dish, of beautiful shape and pastel colour. And it was not just any cork, it comes from the recycled bottle corks!

The Whistler_2

Metamorphosis – an exhibition about the potentials and possibilities of cork


Browsing through the web site of IGESPAR, I have just found the ongoing Bienal EXD13, taking place in Lisbon (Jeronimos Monastery), between November 8th and December 1st, 2013. Among other events, an exhibition named “Metamorphosis” is a part of the Biennial. The exhibition is dedicated to exploration of limits and potential of cork in the realms of architecture and design. Interesting!


Also, the names of participants assure this is something to look at.

Btw, the whole thing is organized by Experimentadesign, a team doing inspiring research within the areas of culture, design and the creative industries.

More info here: and


Cork production is über-important for Portuguese economy. And Portuguese share is 50% of total annual world production, or 61.3%, according to slightly confusing references from Wikipedia. Even though most of the harvested cork goes into wine bottle stoppers, many other products can come out of it, and that’s what this post is about.



Just throwing everything randomly in the mix, from a postal stamp to designer furniture … and the Portuguese pavilion at the Shanghai EXPO 2010!


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