A Parisian architectural practice Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, led by the Pritzker Prize-winning Christian de Portzamparc, have realised this dynamic, concrete-clad winery located in the historical southwestern French commune of Saint-Émilion. A new home to the producer of one of the region’s finest wines, Château Cheval Blanc, the 5250-square-meters building blends seamlessly with its hilly surroundings and boasts 52 concrete vats, a wine barrel cellar, a tasting room, several workshops and office spaces as well as a beautifully lit, adjacent terraced garden.
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‘In the heart of the vineyard, the “winery under the hill” initially looks like a promontory extending the château, a lifting of the earth, raised by sails of concrete towards the light and the sky. From a vantage point that seems to float in the air, the eye takes in the swathes of vines and the age-old history of the landscape. What gives the site a certain grace is a discreet cantilever effect suggestive of a pendulum, the geometry of the curved surfaces and their living substance of muted white moulded concrete, the unique atmosphere that derives from the natural light descending earthwards inside the vat house, between the contours of the great concrete vats.
‘That grace also derives from the desire, in evidence all around, for perfect harmony between the place and its purpose. The technology is therefore treated as such: necessary facilities, not objects of ostentation. There are 52 vats because that is what parcel selection requires, and they are made of concrete. If the walls are of mashrabiya, it is to facilitate natural ventilation. The lighting is sober because it does not seek display or decoration. In fact, everything has been designed to replace energy-hungry systems with economical solutions.
‘As a result, the winery is one of the few buildings in the wine business to have High Environmental Quality (HQE) certification, meeting particularly demanding criteria relating not only to the environment but also to the type of materials used, to water, energy and waste management, controlled hygrometry, acoustic, visual and olfactory comfort and the well-being of the people who work there.’