following a strategic masterplan, foster + partners has completed the first new visible building at bordeaux’s château margaux for more than two hundred years.
in addition to the ‘nouveau chai’, a large new winery, the project includes a new vinothèque and the refurbishment of the site’s existing buildings, including the historic orangery.
extending from the eastern wing of the early 19th century complex, the nouveau chai is a new building for the production of both red and white wine. the highly flexible, open enclosure is shaped by the different winemaking processes, and also includes a new research and development center.
the design reinterprets the region’s vernacular style of tiled roofs, and harmonizes with the estate’s existing industrial buildings – with a pitched roof supported by tree-shaped load bearing columns and punctuated by light wells.
buried beneath the vineyard to make the minimum intervention in the landscape is a new 70-metre-long vinothèque. located away from the flooding area, the new facility provides safe, environmentally stable underground storage at the heart of the estate for the collection of celebrated château margaux bottles. the thermal mass of the concrete structure helps to naturally regulate temperatures.
the realization of the new buildings has freed up space in the existing winery, which is now devoted entirely to the production of red wine. in order to maximize efficiency, areas such as the cooperage have been relocated, while the former vinothèque has once again become a barrel store.
other spaces, such as the visitor walkway to the aging cellars, have been refurbished to enhance the experience for guests. the central courtyard has also been redesigned to accommodate the installation of temporary equipment during the region’s harvest season.
standing as the oldest structure on the estate, the 640-square-metre orangery has been completely refurbished to restore the original character of the building. ungainly additions have been removed and the fabric of the original structure has been restored. this has included revealing and opening up the large south-facing windows to create a light-filled winter garden, which provides a flexible space for events. the orangery once again protects orange and lemon trees during the winter months, and at harvest time is used as a refectory.
‘as a lover of wine there is only one château margaux – it is a hallowed label,’ said lord foster. ‘this design has been inspired by the character of the existing estate, and what bernard rudofsky called ‘architecture without architects’ – the vernacular architecture that embraces everything from windmills to bridges, and the wonderful heritage of the ‘big barn’. I have been fascinated by this anonymous tradition since my student days. at margaux I was inspired by a communal lunch in the open space under the great roof of one of the structures during the grape harvesting.’
‘by investigating ruins elsewhere on the site it was possible to recycle enough tiles to create another major roof in the same vernacular,’ foster continued. ‘the new winery is rooted in the technology of today and the best of these traditions – it is ‘of the place’ in both the culture of the local architecture and the industry of wine making. in the overall picture of the margaux estate this approach ensures that the original chateau of 1815 remains the architectural protagonist. at first glance there does not appear to be a new building. this is deliberate and it is only on closer inspection that the new addition is revealed.’