by Jincy IypeNov 12, 2020
The southern region of Moravia in Czech Republic accounts for nearly 96 per cent of the country’s wine production, owing to its sizeable vineyards and distinct, local grape produce. The Winery Nešetřil springs in the heart of the historically rich southern Moravian town of Znojmo, on the Masaryk Square. ORA was approached by its client, a local winemaker, with an ambition to create a facility that wasn’t just all things wine: creating, selling and tasting it, but also a place where there could be feasts, events and even accommodations for guests, for a truly involving viniculture experience. For this comprehensive brief, the designers at ORA worked with the townhouse itself, its courtyard, and the cellars adjoining the Znojmo underground, making the use of every square centimetre of space available.
The winery finds its home in a narrow plot, seeming as though shrunk between two high-rising walls from adjacent plots, lending its open courtyard a degree of privacy and intimacy. The first wall, constructed in rubble and beautifully weathered with the lime plaster chipping off, cracking, paving way for new foliage on the wall, belongs to a former Capuchin Monastery. The second, bare by contrast and completely unadorned, belongs to a vast cultural centre from the 80s, now inoperative for years. By design, most of ORA’s built intervention clings to the bare cultural centre wall, while the monastery wall has been left as it was to stand out and add to the courtyard as much as it could.
One gains access to the expansive winery through a double cross vaulted space dubbed “the passage”, decorated in metal, wood, rubble and exposed plaster. The designers state it to be the warehouse of winemaking utensils and technology, with the wine maturing in Georgian ‘kvevri’, ceramic vessels built into the floor. The passage has five of them, and also serves as the connection between the courtyard and an entry point to the accommodation on the first floor.
An operational necessity was to design an extension with service rooms in the yard, standing in the former wing of the courtyard destroyed during the war. A few existing sheds were also demolished to make way for the new construction: a contemporary pavilion hidden away from the outside. The pavilion is constructed entirely in timber, concrete, and steel, materials that the designers thought age well and complemented the existing building aesthetically. The extension’s roof serves as a beautiful terraced annex with seating, and is connected to the courtyard by an expanding sanded concrete staircase.
The project, recently completed, has been in the works for more than five years, since as long back as 2014, and it began with the reconstruction of a small interior wine bar. The definitive character of the space is a pair of cross vaults, naturally dividing the spatial layout into two parts as well. The first, near the entrance, serves as a more intimate, nestled in seating for the guests, with both tables and a long bench. The second one houses a work desk along a bar and a smart wine rack. The adaptive reuse of this space involved minimal interference with the renaissance era vaults, with a very modernist, linear, cross-shaped chandelier illuminating the vault, lending new definition to the space by contrast. The basic motif of a “cross” derived from the vaults then permeates the entire interior.
The only part of the former wing still standing today are the cellars, which are now intended to be used for the production premises for the wine. The cellars are entered through a secret door in the facade of the extension. Being directly connected to the historical Znojmo underground, the cellars comprise two levels of beautifully aged brick masonry and arches that the architects left completely without interference, except for the introduction of uplighting incorporated in the ground. The cellars on the first level feature stainless steel tanks that serve as the primary production area of the winery, while the second level houses large wooden barrels for the storage and ageing of the wine. Apart from some sly remnants that were later demolished in the courtyard, the cellars are the only part of the building that survived from the Second World War, directly underneath the extension.