By Arushi Sakhuja
If you are a wine enthusiast, you know a fine-tasting wine can be attributed to how it's aged and the process of winemaking. Not only is it an outcome of the quality of grapes but did you know that architecture has an impact on wine making? Architect and Designer Ronak Hingarh's recent visit to the Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery in Tuscany gave him a few insights that he shared with TSL. Hingarh also spoke to us about architecture and his favourite projects.
Tell us about your recent visit to the exquisite Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery in Tuscany.
I happened to be in Milan for the design week and post that I decided to visit Florence. A visit to one of the most exquisite wineries in the world which is only about 45 mins drive from Florence was a must for me. The drive is truly spectacular and takes you through the beautiful mountains and wineries of the Tuscan region setting the mood for the visit. Upon arrival, to be quite honest I was
stunned by the architecture of the place. It is very easy to miss as from afar you can't really see an imposing structure as one would expect. That is because the entire facility is embedded in the ground- it's subterranean! It is perfectly integrated into the surrounding hillside. It was designed to unify state-of-the-art production facilities and free-flowing fluid aesthetics through a contemplative relationship with the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. The shape and forms of the roofs are articulated as large strokes and extensions of the contours and terrain itself. Juxtaposed against the lush green landscape, the entire structure is clad in corten steel sheets that like wine age over time! As you drive through the meandering entrance the structure gradually reveals itself through fluid strokes. From the car park, there is a stunning cantilever and suspended spiral staircase that takes you to the main entrance patio level. It is designed to impress, giving you 360 panoramic views of the integrated relationship between the facility and the landscape. These almost 40-metre cantilevered roofs are completed steel fabrication and are used to grow grapes above while shading the large expansive entrance patio below.
The processing and bottling facility are sequenced behind and above the cellar. There are 5 main stages: Harvesting, Crushing + pressing, Fermentation, Clarification, ageing + bottling. The facility’s layout follows this sequence from outside to inside in relation to the terrain.
Tell us a little about how architecture impacts the process of wine-making.
Winemaking is a confluence of art and science that requires careful balancing of several tangible and intangible variables. So is architecture. As they say, “Behind every wine is a wine cellar that influences the personality of each bottle it produces”. The place where the grapes are collected, processed and bottled is as much part of the wine as the recipe to make it. The architecture of the winery not only lends the technical infrastructure to the wine but also a personality and character. This differs from winery to winery.
Right from selecting the perfect location for the winery (macro climate, light, temperature, humidity, accessibility to vineyards) which impacts the quality of the produce, to designing the winery in order to control the microclimate and these factors by means of architecture; (sequencing of programs and layout of spaces, sizes and orientation of the rooms, the right blend of old and new materials that not only provides robust and eco-friendly infrastructure but lends a distinct character and enhances these various processes of winemaking,) the impact of architecture on winemaking is immeasurable. Architecture and wine go hand in hand especially when wine producers and architects collaborate and create a winery that also represents what is inside it. Some notable ones include The Codorniu Winery located near Barcelona and designed by Gaudi-contemporary architect Puig I Cadafalch to new age winery Martin's Lane Winery in Kelowna in Canada (by Olson Kundig Architects) that uses the pull of gravity to help produce its signature pinot noir, to San Vicente winery, a new winery designed by Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry, which contains a luxury hotel, a spa, 2 restaurants, and a meeting, conference, and banquet centre!
How can one best use the existing landscape while building wineries?
Throughout history, people have searched for the best locations for making wine, both above and below the ground. The perfect location that has enough space, just the right light, is the ideal size (volume), and is also beautiful- because why not?! Erecting a beautiful building out of nothing, winemaking can be an art—creating, inspiring, and evoking all sensations.
For instance, the Antinori winery is perfectly integrated into the surrounding hillside. It is designed to unify state-of-the-art production facilities and free-flowing fluid aesthetics through a contemplative relationship with the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. The shape and forms of the roofs are articulated as large strokes and extensions of the contours and terrain itself. Juxtaposed against the lush green landscape, the entire structure is clad in corten steel sheets that like wine age over time! The most important strategy while designing a winery is to utilise the existing terrain to create a facility to create the right balance between light, temperature and humidity; designing the layout in such a way that considers leeward/ windward side, orientation with respect to the sun, prevailing winds and the height of the building above ground vs below.
The architectural design impacts the light and temperature for winemaking, how?
Wine represents repose; the stillness of those who wait patiently for it to emerge into the world to be enjoyed; for it to be born and to mature. And it's not just the ‘what’ that matters in that process, but the ‘how’ and the ‘where’— the method and the place. It's about the containers and materials used; the walls that protect them; the stone, steel, cement, and glass constructions that shelter them into maturity inside steel tanks, large earthenware jars, wooden barrels or, of course, wine bottles.
For example at the Antinori winery, the focal point for me is the underground cellar area. The structure is embedded in the ground to control the precise amount of natural light, temperature and humidity which are integral to the process of wine-making. The deeper you go the temperature drops but the humidity also increases. Hence it's a very tricky balance to achieve. Inspired by ancient Roman vaulted structures, the cellar area is housed between a series of vaults made from Steel fabrication but clad in terracotta tiles! The flooring is also terracotta tiles. The right amount of indirect lighting and controlled skylights not only make it technically appropriate but aesthetically it is stunning.
While designing a home what is your ethos? How does it differ from a commercial project?
At the studio, we follow a process-driven, multidisciplinary, and hands-on approach to designing. Each project responds to a strong narrative and is meticulously crafted to reveal a unique emerging design language and distinctive characters of the owners. Whether it is an office/ commercial space or a home. To me, a home is a safe space. It needs to have the right amount of expression and comfort. It is an opportunity to design an environment that promotes healthy living and breathable spaces which allow the body's natural circadian rhythm to be synced with nature! A home should induce this level of calm and peace.
A commercial space must be designed on similar lines but in a way, it creates a vibrant and productive environment while reflecting the company ethos and mission.
One project you'd absolutely loved working on and why?
We recently completed The House of Objects. It is a 1000 sq ft apartment nestled in Malabar Hill, one of South Mumbai’s posh neighbourhoods. It is a home to host intimate gatherings where guests are transported to a realm of mystery, poetry, and emotions, similarly witnessed at an art gallery. It showcases a collection of bespoke objects; artefacts sourced from various parts of the world, eclectic lights and furnishings. Architectural elements like the doors are not merely functional components but are also designed as objects. These objects are crafted with meticulous attention to detail and an underlying spirit of experimentation to make a bold statement. Inspiration for designing these objects ranges from rare rocks, minerals, modernist paintings, exotic stones, and an array of textures. This project was a collaboration with ALT Space Design Co.