Your average winery is fussy, affected, and generally feels like the architectural equivalent of a lace doily. Leave it to Norman Foster — the starchitect who bestowed upon London’s skyline a giant, glass-and-steel phallus — to make a winery look downright macho.
The Bodegas Portia, for the Faustino Group in Ribera del Duero (one of Spain’s preeminent wine-producing regions), has the rugged good looks of the Marlboro man. Clad in Corten steel and loaded up with exposed concrete, the building sprawls out in three, blocky, angular lobes that, from certain angles, bear a striking resemblance to motocross ramps. On an outer wall, you’ve got giant steel vats for decor. Indoors, it’s all dark wood and raw floors and sweeping ceilings. Here, you don’t sip wine, you chug it.
It might sound like a senseless rebuke to all the precious wineries out there. But like much of the work of Foster + Partners — which, as we reported yesterday, may or may not be building Apple’s new Cupertino campus — the design has a clear logic. Much of it centers on mitigating temperatures in a region known for extreme summers and winters. So the concrete acts like natural insulation, and the structure itself is partially underground to maximize passive heating and cooling. On the roof, photovoltaic cells generate clean energy for the property. More details from the press materials:
The building’s trefoil design expresses the three main stages of production: fermentation in steel vats; ageing in oak barrels; and finally, ageing in bottles. These are controlled by an operations hub at the core. The wings containing the barrels and bottle cellar are partly embedded into the ground to produce the most favourable environmental conditions for ageing the wine, while the fermentation wing is exposed, allowing carbon dioxide to be released. A road rises to the roof of the building, where the harvested grapes are delivered straight into the hopper: the winery is designed to take advantage of the sloping terrain, using gravity to aid movement of the grapes within the building, maximising efficiency and minimising damage to the grapes.
The winery is Foster’s first, which is surprising, given how many starchitects have turned a hand to wineries in recent years (and how much Foster props up other habits of the rich). We think he’s done a fine job. Here’s to hoping there are many more.