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Ventolera Winery by Francisco Izquierdo, San Juan de Huinca, Leyda Valley, Chile

Izquierdo’s winery achieves the impact of a double-curved structure, but with the efficiency of an industrial shed. Photography by Cristobal Palma

Despite being an inherently functional building type, the modern winery has become something of a fashion parade for overly expressive architecture. With the winemaking process typically arranged around efficient and ordered lines of gravity-fed fermentation tanks, there is little justification for a plan to deviate from the orthogonal. Viticulture, however, has become increasingly competitive, with architects commissioned to impart a sense of identity to buildings that are essentially agricultural factories. Usually the temptation is to exaggerate a deviation in cross section and express it through the design of a flamboyant roof structure, with varying degrees of success.

The Peregrine winery in New Zealand by Architecture Workshop (prize winner in the AR’s 2004 Award for Emerging Architecture, AR December 2004) showed how this could be achieved with grace and finesse, employing a double-curved polycarbonate canopy to adorn an otherwise nondescript concrete bunker. At the more hectic end of the spectrum are projects such as the Ysios winery at Álava by Santiago Calatrava, cheekily described by Graham Stirk (designer of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partner’s Bodegas Protos winery in the Castilla y León region of northern Spain, AR March 2009) as ‘a shed with a hair-do’, which shouts for attention with brash materials and a surprisingly bulky structure.

This project by Francisco Izquierdo in Chile sits somewhere in between, achieving the impact of a double-curved structure, but doing so with the efficiency of an industrial shed - employing straightforward yet expressive detailing and a reduced palette of materials.

The Ventolera winery, which produces both white wines and Pinot Noir, is sited at the highest point of a vineyard in San Juan de Huinca in the Leyda Valley, a winemaking region between Santiago and the Pacific coast. A wind turbine was already located on the site and the addition of new production spaces has created a nucleus within the vineyard. The new buildings comprise four elements: three buried and/or partially buried concrete bunkers and the more expressive timber frame, which has become emblematic of the winery. The different volumes sustain the range of environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, stability) needed for the winemaking process.

Arranged east to west in a tapering formation, the elongated concrete forms contain technical and service areas and two wine cellars - one for white and one for red wine. The timber fermentation hall bears on the middle (white wine) bunker, extending to the west with a split-level cross section that steps down to negotiate the steeply sloping site (the 12.5m height difference assists gravity feeding). The timber frame comprises 50 structural bays, set on 1m centres. With 85x700mm columns and 85x560mm beams, the laminated Radiata pine portal frames create a graceful, double-curved roof. Simply by changing the height of each column to create opposing pitches on each of the long elevations, the straight roof beams span at shifting gradients to create an incremental twist, without the need for complex curved geometries.

The slender elements not only give the overall structure a pace and rhythm when seen from further afield, but also provide shade from westerly sunlight without reducing transparency or spoiling views to the landscape from the winery deck. Breaking the rhythm to give access to the deck, a double-T steel beam has been built into the head of the glass wall to support the roof where columns have been omitted. As there were only six months to complete the construction, two contractors worked simultaneously, one of them focusing solely on the laminated wood structures. The result is a building that makes simple poetry out of its function and sits lightly and elegantly in the landscape.

Architect Francisco Izquierdo, Chile
Project team Francisco Izquierdo, Claudio Tapia, María José Varas
Client Viña El Litoral
Structural engineer Enzo Valladares

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