by Sukanya DebAug 31, 2022
The conditions that determine the making of a great wine: the soil, land, air and the sky, were instrumental in the design of a wine tasting pavilion that has recently been installed at The Donum Estate in Northern California, one of Sonoma valley’s most beautiful vineyards. The pavilion featuring a conical canopy ornamented by 832 coloured glass panels is conceived by Berlin-based Studio Other Spaces – a revolutionary atelier working on the cusp of art and architecture, founded by artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann.
Setting up a wine tasting pavilion on a 200-acre landscape which is known to produce the finest Pinot Noir in California, in addition to locating over 50 contemporary site-specific sculptures on its pristine grounds, the focus of the project (named Vertical Panorama Pavilion) remained on the journey people embark on as they set foot in the land. The design formed an abstract representation of several horizontal layers of the site sliced into a vertical panorama. In words of the design team, this vertical slice combines layers of experiencing the "crunching sound of our shoes on the gravel path", "the rustling grass and chirping insects", and "the soil as not only the ground we walk upon but also a home for precious roots and micro-organisms".
For long-time collaborators Eliasson and Behmann, intervening on a site which boasts artworks by the likes of Ai Weiwei, Subodh Gupta, Arik Levy, Fernando Botero, Doug Aitken, and Yayoi Kusama - it was clear for the duo since their first visit in 2019 not to skew their vision towards creating a sculpture but to realising a sensorial architectural masterpiece that heightens the experience of wine-tasting. The pavilion now sits in the vicinity of Donum’s Estate’s other architectural facilities which include a production facility and hospitality centre, and a white cube conservation space that houses Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spider.
The journey to experiencing the pavilion starts by treading a path - forming an s-curve - that glides through the site in an upward slope. As you walk past sprawling orchards and endless rows of grapevines, you catch a glimpse of the kaleidoscopic glass roof glistening from afar. According to Studio Other Spaces, the glazed treatment of the tiles represents "an abstract calendar that depict yearly averages of the four meteorological parameters of the estate – solar radiance, wind intensity, temperature, and humidity". The symbolism, however, is not didactic and is meant only to bring awareness of the site’s natural elements – soil, wind, light and colour – to those coming to indulge in the gift of the land.
The experience of the walk is heightened as one finds a gentle rising of the wall on their right that leads to a closer encounter of the site’s landscape features. The walls that line the pathway are made of local earthen bricks with a mirrored surface on one side, an effect rendered due to glazing. As one approaches the pavilion, the path is carved into the slope leading you to enter into the realm of soil. The wall grows higher reaching one’s eye level, and the turf it flanks comes closer to one’s senses.
The first space that greets you at the pavilion is the central arrival area basking underneath the oculus. The space transitions into the tasting zone on one side, and the service space on the other. Once all visitors have arrived under the grand gathering space, they are escorted to the tasting area where the seating is arranged below the turf. The size of the upholstered benches enable a closeness to the ground and an uninterrupted view of the valley, and their flexibility allow easy rearrangement to accommodate different groups. The space is enlivened by the light that filters through the coloured canopy creating a gridded iridescence on everything shaded under the sun. In words of Studio Other Spaces, “Vertical Panorama Pavilion creates a state of mind and body that aims at enhancing the wine tasting, making the experience of wine itself unique and not repeatable.”
The materiality of the pavilion puts emphasis on using local technology and a recycled palette. Twelve columns support the hovering glass canopy while the structure of the concentric canopy is made of stainless steel and a gridded shell. The 832 panels on the canopy are recycled glass. The walls of the pathway and pavilion’s interiors are made of earthen brick sourced from Sacramento, California.
Mei and Allan Warbug, owners of the estate share, “This pavilion blends perfectly with what we strive to achieve at Donum – a holistic sensory experience drawing on our passions for wine, nature and art, design and architecture. The design principle set in the Californian light create a sensational experience that draws on Donum’s participation in the natural world, to enhance the experience of all our visitors.”
The pavilion opened to the visitors on August 01, 2022. Its setup brought the relocation of one of the early sculptures of the estate’s collection – the corten steel masterpiece, King and Queen by late Keith Haring. The intertwined figures have been moved to the highest elevation on the estate property, closer to the eucalyptus grove.