Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Let's Drink to Architecture!

Vineyards tend to be good locations in which to place postmodern architecture because, being surrounded by greenery, there is less conflict with neighbouring structures of different styles. Contradicting the area's historically established style is one way to really line up the locals against your project. Winemakers' healthy profit margins on the high-end and sensitivity to the way architecture can establish brand has made risk-taking common place in the field. Below we've collected six examples of structures where we think the risks paid off.

I'll have to be excused for making the reader do a bit of homework for this article. Getting all the image copyrights sorted out for a growing blog is turning out to be a bit of a pain. I've moved to plan B and made little iconographic sketches from publicly available images with links to more information and images.

B Birdsell
We start with a pure expression of form by Lisbon firm Promontorio in Portugal's wine making region. The simple white aesthetic might be divisive; but, assuming one accepts it, the form really is amazingly creative and the colour plays a role in highlighting it. Beyond functioning just as winery, the building also houses a spa and hotel which elevates the interior finishing to a refined and luxurious state. The design establishes some really inviting outdoor spaces around the structure for guests which is why I'm sure this winery gets named as a place worth visiting in the wire tourism industry.

The Winery at VIK, Millahue, Chile.
Smiljan Radic, Loreto Lyon 2014
Though this structure isn't quite as successful as some of the other wineries listed it should be celebrated for the larger than average creative risks it took. Completed in 2014 by award-winning Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, the structure includes a spectacular water feature at the entrance that's hard to describe. It's sort of this low pool which serves a heating and cooling function for the building that visitors walk over to enter. The reason it was such a risk is that the whole space is pretty experimental which lends it an unpredictable atmosphere no matter how many times it's used. It serves the purpose of a garden courtyard but looks nothing like it. The use of the space in this way seems disproportionate to the building's overall function as a winery but I like that the client took a creative risk and included it because I think the feature enthuses visitors and employees to the building.

Foster + Partners 2010
I wanted to make sure I left room on this list to highlight some of the most sustainable vineyards on the planet. A couple of solar panels and a water use plan was not going to cut it. I considered Renzo Piano's Rocca di Frassinello in Tuscany but ultimately felt the design fell a bit short compared to his other very strong work. Impressively, Foster + Partners again represents their sustainability credentials well with their work for the Faustino Winery in Bodegas Portia, Spain. Photovoltaics panels, materials choices and an extensive passive energy plan all contribute to the building's sustainability features. Great care was taken to accommodate the winemaking function of the building with a tourist function overlaid on top. I think the firm also did a good job understanding the winemaking process in implementing its function in the design. 

Archea Associati 2012
I liked this example because it showed real ambition in its landscape design and how it situated the building within the site. The Antinori Winery in Tuscany was designed to sort of materializes out of the main hill of the vineyard. There's also a wonderful staircase feature worth pointing out because these are the sorts of ideas clients and developers can aspire to without having to bankroll the intensive custom design process normally associated with high-profile, high-design buildings. Adopting an architectural feature to highlight goes a long way toward showing users the project cares about their well-being.

Bodegas Darien Winery, Spain.
Jesus Marino Pascual 2002
This building reminds me so much of Frank Gehry's work but without the strong curvilinear forms. Here we introduce architect Jesus Marino Pascual and his fine work for the Bodegas Darien Winery in Spain. He was able to offer a design that distinguishes itself by its balanced geometric aesthetic which if any one piece was removed would destroy the entire effect. Left unseen in the picture is that the building sinks into the ground quite far to accommodate wine-aging storage facilities.

Museo Provincial del Vino, Penafiel, Spain.
Refurbishment Architect Roberto Valle Gonzales, 1999.

Pivoting back now to end our travels we end at Penafiel Castle and the wine making museum housed within. The castle and museum sit in the center of an ancient winemaking region with the foundations of the earliest buildings on the site dating back to the 10th century, with most of the current exterior dating back to the 15th century. The castle, situated on a high narrow rocky ridge, reminded me of Game of Thrones or the headquarters building in Westworld. The same contrasting of old and new design is also evident in the wine museum which is snuggly fit into one of the courtyards. Architect Roberto Valle Gonzales completed it in the late 90s and I think it's a successful modern addition with lots of simple linear lines and natural materials and tones which complement the older stone structure. Unfortunately, even 20 years ago museum exhibit design was not as sophisticated as it now, and I'm not sure that if one is already familiar with the winemaking process these exhibits will blow anyone's mind.

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