Richard Rogers bids farewell with his floating Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery

An orange steel framed rectangular gallery cantilevers out 27m in the Château La Coste vineyards; the project is Roger’s last before retiring from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Mar 10, 2021

A cantilevering steel framed pavilion that seems to resist gravity makes up the Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery, marking it as the final project of Pritzker Prize laureate Richard Rogers, before retiring from his practice of over four decades, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP). Built with and at Château La Coste in Provence, France, the 120 sqm art gallery seems to hover ever so slightly over the ground, thrusts almost 27 m over the hillside, and 18 m above a woodland that sits along a historic Roman track. “Its delicate joints and expressed elements support the lightweight extruded gallery, clad in a naturally finished satin steel, softly mirroring the surrounding landscape,” shares the firm.

The cantilever propels the visitor into the natural world, giving a sensation of being suspended in the midst of the countryside of Provence | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
The cantilever propels the visitor into the natural world, giving a sensation of being suspended in the midst of the countryside of Provence Image: Stéphane Aboudaram | We Are Content (s)

Rogers founded his practice in 1977, and is best known for pioneering buildings such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the headquarters for Lloyd’s of London. Work on the weightless drawing gallery began prior to his retirement in June last year, on Château La Coste, a 500-acre vineyard of outstanding natural beauty, an internationally famous space for art and architecture. The Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery joins the Château La Coste’s Architectural & Art Walk estate, among pavilions designed by distinguished architects such as Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando and Jean Nouvel.

The Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery is a pure cantilever, with all the load supported at one end | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
The Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery is a pure cantilever, with all the load supported at one end Image: James Reeve

Rogers chose this remote and unusual location back in 2011, when he was invited to pick a place that spoke to him, and was given the freedom to design a gallery that would rest here. The particular site, however, needed bespoke planning for the gallery’s architecture and its fabrication. He imagined the architecture to have the barest of touches on the site and its ecology, to build on his idea of creating a structure as a single stroke, one that leaps in midair with no perceptible support.

 The gallery is positioned on the edge of a wooden slope | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
The gallery is positioned on the edge of a wooden slope Image: Stéphane Aboudaram | We Are Content (s)

The orange steel beams act as external support, and taper as the construction glides outwards, seemingly floating in mid-air. “Where the building touches the ground, it does so subtly, belying the robust engineering below ground that supports the structure from just one end. Industrial in nature but with elegant handcrafted details, the building is itself a sculpture in this landscape,” explain Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in an official release.

  • Four groups of galvanised steel cables at the back of the structure which are anchored into the earth and provide the counterbalance to the weight of the platform jutting into space | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
    Four groups of galvanised steel cables at the back of the structure which are anchored into the earth and provide the counterbalance to the weight of the platform jutting into space Image: James Reeve
  • The gallery is a complete kit of parts | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
    The gallery is a complete kit of parts Image: Stéphane Aboudaram | We Are Content (s)

The gallery and its joinery are delicate and robust at the same time, and are designed as a kit of parts which made the construction fairly quick, i.e., manufactured off site and built on site. A petite, lightweight bridge contacts the ground at just four places, and brings one into the gallery, and while walking through the support structure, the visitor experiences a floating sensation.

  • A cage all around the form takes care of both horizontal and rotational forces | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
    A cage all around the form takes care of both horizontal and rotational forces Image: James Reeve
  • The gallery is aligned with the neat rows of vines in the vineyard behind | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
    The gallery is aligned with the neat rows of vines in the vineyard behind Image: Stéphane Aboudaram | We Are Content (s)

The gallery is done fully in white, a single rectangular volume with poured resin gallery floors. One of its most signifying features being that it frames a view of and over the vineyards and the Luberon mountains beyond, at its furthest end via a 5x4 m floor-to-ceiling window.

  • The entrance to the gallery | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
    The entrance to the gallery Image: James Reeve
  • Visitors are propelled forward towards the view | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
    Visitors are propelled forward towards the view Image: James Reeve

The cantilevering pavilion as well as the site’s seismic activity compelled the architecture to include a bridge type engineering and construction technique, as well as the use of flexible materials. Contracting and expanding cables at the entrance fasten the volume to the ground, and are sensitive to the climatic conditions.    

Concept drawing illustrating the gallery | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
Concept drawing illustrating the gallery Image: Stephen Spence, Courtesy of RSHP

RSHP associate partner and project lead, Stephen Spence, explains that “The gallery is a beautifully handcrafted piece of architecture that soars out dramatically into the canopy of the trees to ‘capture the view’ of the mountains of the Luberon. In contrast to the neutral gallery space, the legibility of the external structure is enhanced by its bold orange colour, specifically chosen both to compliment, but also contrast with the surrounding seasonal landscape”.

Concept drawings illustrating the path and the gallery | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
Concept drawings illustrating the path and the gallery Image: Stephen Spence, Courtesy of RSHP

The Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery relays a fitting farewell to the distinguishing oeuvre of Richard Rogers, who was influenced by the exemplary works of Norman Foster and Frank Lloyd Wright, the impact of which has been carried over to this piece of floating architecture as well.

Concept drawing illustrating the interior of the gallery and its placement | Richard Rogers’ Drawing Gallery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners | STIRworld
Concept drawing illustrating the interior of the gallery and its placement Image: Stephen Spence, Courtesy of RSHP

Project Details

Name: Richard Rogers Drawing Gallery
Location: Château La Coste in Provence, France
Client: Chàteau La Coste/Paddy Mc Killen
Gross Internal Floor Area: 120 sqm
Year of completion: 2020
Architect: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Local Architect: Demaria Architecture
Structural Engineer: Lang Engineering Consultancy
Project Manager: Rainey + Best
Steel works: Bysteel
Building Enclosure: Setanta Construction
Specialist Engineering: Hasson Engineering Solutions
Local Engineer: ATES
Internal fit out: SCEA Château La Coste, IDME France, ACM France

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