Herzog and de Meuron’s first project in North America, the winery at the Dominus Estate is a great example of the beauty of architecture everywhere. That is, even a ‘working building’* can, and should, be one of good design, one that enhances the activities within and without, and enlivens those who enter, work, or pass by. It also says “let the site decide”, using a decidedly low-tech and straightforward and rugged system of gabions – those wire mesh cages filled with stones usually used at the banks of rivers – to form the outer facade of the building. In one delightful stroke, these rocks provide thermal mass to regulate the building’s temperature, a hardy exterior material, provide a splendid interior light quality, and create a texture and a colour scheme that complements the vineyards and surrounding hills.
The two roads that trisect the building tie the form to the field, making them a part of each other while, from the inside, strikingly framing those same fields and the hills beyond. They also separate the use within, delineating the winemaking spaces and process. While being encased in rock, the building sits lightly upon the land, humble yet strong.
It is as though the very terroir of the vineyards was extruded upwards, just enough, to illustrate the wonders of the wine being made all around.
* – Here I moreover would ask why would we even make a distinction between a ‘working’ building vs any other building… ?