In a lush countryside setting of the French city Saint-Émilion, and amid the rolling hills of Bordeaux, London-based Foster + Partners has visualised the design of a state-of-the-art facility for Le Dôme, the distinguished wine brand by Jonathan Maltus – one of the early winemakers in the Bordeaux region.
The architecture of the winery is organically set within the UNESCO heritage landscape of the region, which is known for its alluring Romanesque churches and ruins. Walking down a woody avenue, visitors will arrive at a partially sunken circular building, which integrates spaces for wine production and tasting. The layout comprises of a lower level dedicated to wine-processing, while the upper – the social heart of the building – is a place for visitors to savour the fine wine of the terroir.
The architects have defined a strong visual connection in the layout. While the circular atrium allows people to look down into the activities below, the upper level with its uninterrupted 360 degree view looks towards the adjoining vineyard. Further, a pair of ramps within and outside the building offer a free-flowing circulation between the levels and the surroundings. “The views and landscape have always been the primary protagonists of the design,” said architect Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners.
A 40-m diameter timber roof cladded with local terracotta tiles creates a hill like form that resonates with the gentle slopes of the context. The structure has a natural six-metre wide oculus that flushes interiors with plenty of natural light. Sloping beams span over a large column-less space, making way for a generous free flowing layout. A rammed earth and concrete base anchors the architecture to its landscape, while a sunken morphology reduces its visual impact on the terrain.
The holistic facility is envisioned as a unique and unified space with open ended programmes to experience the best of wine-making. This is the second winery project by Foster + Partners following Château Margaux outside Bordeaux, which was completed in 2015.