by Zohra KhanSep 03, 2021
Located alongside a secluded river bend on the eastern edge of Texas Hill Country, this ‘wine cave’ has been interestingly labelled a stealth destination by its architects and users. Casting obvious meaning over its usage, the wine cellar housed in a cave comprises a modular entity inserted inside a pre-existing excavated cave in a solid limestone hillside, housed in a location that is a dream for secluded getaways. Visitors along its slightly recessed entryway are greeted by an unassuming entry court that is intended to lend mystique to the already concealed cave, offering a little peak into its minimally and tastefully designed insides. Slightly set back from the face of the cave, deliberately nestled further within to give it the impression of a naturally occurring cave settlement, the entryway is also punctuated by tall oak and elm trees. Those, along with limestone boulders retrieved after excavation, and existing vegetation, camouflage the cave in its native landscape.
The realisation of the project and its unique defining feature posed a set of logistical and design challenges that were innovatively overcome by the team at Clayton Korte. The interior of the excavated cave soffit, after being lined with shotcrete was readied for a wooden module insert within the volume of the excavation. The module was made to human scale and delicately designed and cut out so as to actually enable habitation within, seeing as though the cave wasn’t entirely designed to be water tight, nor for the exact intent of housing a wine collection. The intervention was designed to be adaptable, almost modular, since all the components of the wood insert are intentionally left away from the shell, allowing easy disassembly and removal.
The second part of the response to this unique site comprised the insertion of a bulkhead that effectively restrained the loose limestone at the mouth of the cave, while providing a relatively more predictable surface to wed the wooden insert inside the cave. While the excavation nearly provided the designers and construction crew the dimensional constraints of the space, it was necessary to even the inner surfaces of the cave out, for both visual and structural reasons. The carved out space now essentially embodied all the benefits of subterranean construction, without the moisture and darkness, while also embodying the reminiscence of olden Moravian and Roman settlements with expansive underground vaults as cellars.
The overall design, including the interiors, have a sense of prospect and refuge as central to the entire scheme. Likewise, while the cave induces the feeling of being nestled in, a refuge amidst nature, the interior palette too is composed of rich yet subtle “domestic” materials that invoke familiar comfort, with touches of style. The same choices were also guided by the locality of available materials, sourced from within 500 miles of the site, and were chosen to keep in mind minimal maintenance as per occupancy. Richly wooden textures flood the place on first sight, composed of both raw and ebonised oak, along with vertical grain Douglas fir, creating a statement of opulence and warmth simultaneously. Additionally, for the countertop surfaces of the wine tasting bar and the floating restroom vanity, reclaimed cedar was salvaged and milled. Lining the wall panels and drop-ceilings, the wood is placed in welcome contrast to the more rugged concrete and stone masonry.
Keeping in mind the temperature conditions to be maintained to house the sizeable collection of wine, custom insulated and thermally broken steel and wood windows were used as separators between the interior and the exterior, as well as the entertaining lounge and the chilled cellar. Additionally, while none of the materials used in the project have an essentially high embodied energy, space conditioning proved to be the number one consumer of energy on the project. The design team overcame this additional challenge by lowering the temperature delta between the building envelope and its outdoor environment, the cave itself, effectively reducing demands, exceeding requirements for code by nearly 54 per cent for cooling and 35 per cent for heating.
Name: Hill Country Wine Cave
Location: Texas, USA
Year of completion: 2021
Built-up area: 1405 sq.ft.
Architecture: Clayton Korte
Interiors: Clayton Korte<
Design Team: Brian Korte, Camden Greenlee, Josh Nieves, Brandon Tharp, Nicole Corwin
General Contractor: Monday Builders
Structural Engineer: SSG Structural Engineers
Civil Engineering: Intelligent Engineering Services
Mechanical Engineer: Positive Energy
Lighting Designer: Studio Lumina