The project explores the natural polymeric material pine resin, in terms of its potentials, possibilities and narratives.

This research project explores the concept of restorative design that connects humans to their natural environments. It deals with questions of a non-anthropocentric perception of forests in which it is not just a mine for exploitation. The approach is driven by its symbolic connotations; that more than others, represent the complex relationship between the natural and the man-made that uses alternative resources of the forest.

Forgotten Collection
3rd Edition
Ongoing research project in cooperation with Prorresina, Produtos Resinosos LDA, Portugal.

Since ancient times, Mediterranean forests have been a habitat for human activity, providing a wide range of goods. It is an ecosystem of complex co-existence of which the functioning still lies beyond our full understanding. The forest is the context of destruction and attempted resurrection; of ritual and tradition; of growth and decay; of history and future. The fragile yet robust futures of the forest offer spaces of possibility in which synergies between human and non-human actors should be renegotiated. 

The building blocks of forests mature cyclically like natural resins, sticky tar or flexible fibers. For centuries, pine resin was a precious resource in the Portuguese culture - the tear of the gods - was responsible for worldwide trade relations, cultural development and wealth. It preserved things and surfaces from decay, it joined or connected - it was a binder of the first pre-industrial plastics in the 19th century. Nowadays large stands of so-called Pinheros have been preserved and the resin industry in Portugal is a secure source of income for many people in rural areas.

Resin tapping is a technique in which the bark of a pine tree is removed from one third of its circumference, after which the resin that the tree produces in that part can be harvested by means of incisions in its outer layers. Before  chemicals that were based on oil extraction made it redundant, it was a widespread industry all over Europe, since the pine resin could be used for plenty of applications after distillation, from pharmaceutics to cosmetics, in tar, but also in early plastics and paint. Resin can be harvested cyclical from May till October, without it being a threat to the tree. When a tree has reached a trunk diameter of 20 cm, it can be tapped for a period of 20-30 years. A cut produces an average of 1 1⁄2 litres of resin per year. Today only a few small production centres are still in existence, harvesting the resin with traditional and artisanal techniques.

View of the oldest colophonium destillery in PortugalProrresina, Produtos Resinosos LDA

In the region of Góis only one resin destillation remained. Amilcar Aleixo is now the third generation of his family to run the 100-year-old distillery Prorresina - Produto Resinosos, LDA in Chã de Alvares. The factory is relatively small, but nevertheless an architectural maze in several stages, built up according to the individual steps of the production process. The distillation process ends in the front part of the building facing the valley. At the back of the factory, facing the forest, there is a ramp over which the raw balsamic resin is delivered in metal barrels from the surrounding Resineros. 

In the covered gallery, the barrels are opened and the raw balsam is let through floor hatches into the 150-tonne basin. The work is physically demanding. With the simplest of tools, the balsam, which is soiled with leaves and pine needles, is removed from the barrels with the help of steam. Two large steaming water basins outside ensure that the entire production organism is constantly supplied with steam and cooling water. Inside, the resin is heated so that the solid components can be sieved out. The liquid mass is then pressed through fine filter plates to remove any remaining solids. After this purification, the mixture of turpentine oil and resin is infused with hot water vapour to separate the two substances. This process condenses both the turpentine and the rosin. In the next step, both separate independently from the water due to their hydrophobic properties. The water is returned to the water basin via a drain. The liquid rosin remains at the bottom of the distillation vessel. The rosin obtained in this way has a golden yellow colour. Traditionally, the resin was heated by an open fire in a large sealed kettle with a condensation coil, very similar to a whisky distillery. Once the turpentine and rosin are separated, the liquid rosin is poured into large metal trays in the covered outdoor area, where it cools and hardens almost crystal clear.