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Bodegas Portia, Gumiel de Izan, Spain

Issue 65 Feb / Mar 2012 : Architecture : Winery

LIGHTING DESIGN: Claude R. Engle ARCHITECT: Foster + Partners


When Foster and Engle join forces, it is not surprising that architecture and light are blended in exciting ways. To make this Spanish winery shine, Claude Engle IV applied methods of qualitative lighting design: accentuation, zoning and vertical illuminance.

In recent years, the wine country of Northern Spain has evolved into an Eldorado of extraordinary architecture. Wineries (bodegas in Spanish) use architects of international renown, such as Calavatra, Moneo and Gehry, striving to beat their competitors in the realm of spectacular design. Buildings such as the headquarters of Marqués de Riscal, whose style mimics that of the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, are highlights of this unofficial competition. The new bodegas constitute trademarks, attractions and unique characteristics, all essential in today’s climate of fierce competition for market share and reputation. The most recent example of this trend is provided by the Gruppo Faustino: its Bodegas Portia, newly designed by Foster + Partners and located in Ribera del Duero, combines efficiency and elegance, takes advantage of the natural topography of the surrounding landscape, and alludes to the functional processes of winemaking with ingenuity – all accentuated effectively by Claude R. Engle IV and his integral lighting concept.

It is the first time Lord Foster and his team have designed a winery. What they came up with as an overall layout for the building looks like a stylised trefoil. Three wings reach out from the centre like rays from a star. Each wing houses one of the three phases of winemaking: the fermentation in steel tanks, the maturing in oak barrels, and ultimately, the bottling and stocking. The heart of the facilities beats in the centre of the complex. This is where all the processes occurring in the three wings are controlled. In addition, it comprises the light-flooded public area including a shop, a degustation lounge, and a restaurant overlooking the large nearby terraces and pools, and beyond, the wine country. Glassed-in galleries on a mezzanine level allow visitors to witness the production processes in all three wings, thus making the enjoyment of wine – well beyond its degustation – a sensual experience embracing the long tradition of Spanish wine culture.

The lighting concept by lighting design practice Claude R. Engle follows the approach of transparency. A mostly discreet illumination lures visitors into the world of wine. Carefully placed accents will please both enthusiasts of state-of-the-art winemaking technology and wine aficionados seeking to explore the romantic aspects of winemaking. To achieve this, Engle placed the focus of his design on the key elements of wine production. Inspired by discussions with the winemakers, he decided to use accent lighting to illuminate only the temperature readouts, the spouts and the tank openings throughout the wing dedicated to fermentation. Put to the practical test, it was soon confirmed that this minimum amount of light was sufficient even for the winemakers. “They say the wine is sleeping. Hence, we provide only as much light as is needed for the wine production, but take heed not to wake the wine,” says Engle. As a result, the industrial lighting instruments fitted with fluorescent lamps, concealed between the ceiling’s wooden blades, are seldom used.

At Bodegas Portia, the “sleeping” wine matures in the barriques (oak barrels), as tradition requires it. ERCO Gimbal projectors fitted with 20W metal halide lamps and Spherolit reflectors bathe the oak barrels in a warm and subtle light. The paths connecting the barrel storage areas are distinguished through a zoned illumination of a cooler light colour (5,000K) so that the winemakers can carry out all activities without having to modify the lighting arrangement. The architects achieved a fascinating effect by leaving a gap between the concrete walls located beneath ground level and the wall construction out of wooden girders, then fitting the gap with wine-red glass so that daylight seeps through in the appetising hue of a Reserva.

The wing in which bottles are stored – the Nave de Botellas – is illuminated by ERCO Parscan projectors with flood reflectors fitted with 100W low voltage halogen lamps. This projector type with outstanding anti-glare properties guarantees maximum visual comfort and a flexible, directed, yet discreet illumination. Mounted on the hall ceiling, they accentuate the impressive bottle walls of Bodegas Portia. The effect they produce by lighting individual bays is reminiscent of the atmosphere in a cathedral – a cathedral of wine.

While the lighting concept in the production areas calls for the greatest possible subtlety, the visitors’ areas in the centre of the winery requires more extensive, uniform lighting. Fine wood surfaces and low-key colours in the restaurant, the bar, and the degustation lounge make for an exclusive aesthetic. In this environment, downlights designed for 75W low voltage halogen lamps achieve a particularly pleasing light quality. They are incorporated into the vertical blades of the louvred ceiling. In addition to pieces of modern art, the wall decoration features staves of old wine barrels. They are lit by Parscan wallwashers. All in all, the concept of openness and transparency is continued throughout the gastronomy and visitors’ areas. Rows of large windows allow visitors to see both the wine barrels resting inside the Nave de Barricas and the vast scenery of Ribera del Duero.

The entrance is the only part of the winery where Foster + Partners departed from their global concept of transparency. There, the architects concealed the central tank, which stands seven metres tall, behind blue-green frosted glass. Engle accentuated this giant piece of technology with colourful lights so as to make its shape vaguely and mysteriously visible through the large glass surfaces. In summary, the lighting concept builds on the architecture in all parts of Bodegas Portia, enhances it, and adds individual accents. Architecture and lighting together have turned what was a functional building into an adventure where the magic of winemaking becomes tangible for the visitor.

www.crengle.com

 

bodegas portia

Photographs: Thomas Mayer, Neuss







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