Family-owned Marchesi Antinori is arguably the most famous house in Italian wine, having been in the business since 1385. Its famous winery in Chianti Classico region in Bargino Italy was designed by one of Italy’s leading architects, Marco Casamonti, founding partner of the Archea firm. This Temple of Wine, as Forbes’ Larry Olmsted calls it, is set among olive groves, vineyards and oak trees. It is hidden by and blended into the landscape.
The winery tells past, present and future of the Antinori family, holding up tradition and innovation. It was envisioned to be an invisible building that merges with the folds of the hillside, one with nature. It portrays the virtue of wine as a rich tradition that man has developed since prehistoric times, extracting not only flavour and colour but also a lifestyle from the grapes.
On building technology, its green roof totally camouflages it into the rural hillside. Only a pair of sliced openings infilled with glass reveal the presence of the structure. The architects were keen to recognize the deep-rooted ties a winery has with land, a relationship that is in-bred in the wine-making tradition. They made sure that the architecture blends into the land and respects this relationship. The earth is a natural insulator that maintains a constant indoor climate and keeps the wine cool during the summer. The facade extends horizontally along the contours of the slope, parallel to rows of vines. It is hardly visible from outside. What gives the building away to sight is the is the panoramic restaurant terrace, overlooking vineyards.
When it comes to function, the winery has two main floor levels. The lower level is dedicated for production and storage of wine. The heart of the winery, where the wine matures in barrels is a hidden sacred space. It is kept in darkness because of minimal human function. Furthermore it is kept under ideal thermo-hygrometric conditions for the slow maturing of the wine. The storage cellars are double volume spaces with terracotta wall cladding.
The upper level has visitor facilities that include the museum, library, 200-seat auditorium and areas for wine tasting and shopping. It is a tourist destination that people can visit and experience their wine-making process first-hand, learning about the Antinori family’s history – and viewing their prized, centuries-old art collection, 26 generations later.
In the tasting room, the entire portfolio of Antinori wines can be sampled. The Antinori family, accustomed to exquisite quality, embraced an ambitious project by allowing Archea to design everything down to the furniture and fittings. The outcome is nothing but pristine. Successful architecture does depend on the right client.
The material palette of the winery enhances the natural and sustainable aspect of this winery. It puts the focus on the profound and deeply rooted ties to the soil and full respect for the surrounding nature. The use of terracotta, a type of clay-based unglazed ceramic blocks as wall cladding is spectacular. The other materials skillfully incorporated into the winery include wood, weathered steel and glass.
Lighting the underground facility is achieved by two circular atriums and several circular holes that bring sunlight into the depths of the building . One atrium contains a spiral staircase that connects the two levels of the building. These circles create a motif that combine with slanted columns, walls and an undulating canopy to showcase a vocabulary of sculptured, organic abstraction. The adoption of circular forms resonates with the shape of wine barrels, bottle and glasses, an intriguing play of symbolism.
Construction spanned from 2006 to 2013, with enough hurdles in the realization of this masterpiece. It began with massive excavation of the hillside that would hold the structure. A year after construction began, the major retaining wall against the hillside appeared to have moved several inches as a result of a high water table. The engineer’s solution included driving thousands of piles into the hillside and draining water with a series of massive wells. This almost doubled the cost of construction to more than $130 million.
Overall, the Antinori Winery is an accurate expression of the cultural and social valence of the place where wine is produced. The building is an authentic expression of a true merge between culture, class, function and the natural environment. It that does not just occupy the landscape but becomes the landscape. This is Architecture with a capital A. Clink.
Architects: Archea Associati
Location: Bargino FI, Italy
Project Team: Laura Andreini, Marco Casamonti, Silvia Fabi, Giovanni Polazzi
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: Pietro Savorelli, Leonardo Finotti