Photos by Rafael Vargas
When I think of a European wine cellar, I picture old-world imagery: a lamp-lit cobblestone labyrinth of barrel-lined corridors. Architect Jesús Maneul Gómez Gaite of Fernando Salas' eponymous Barcelona studio clearly has other ideas: he opted for an ultra-modern design language with Salasstudio's latest project for Vega Sicilia, a winery in Northern Spain.
Of course, the wine cellar presents an interesting architectural space, one with such a specific function that aesthetic decisions necessarily take a backseat to functional priorities:
The project required maximum rigor... Every material used in the process should previously be analyzed to ensure they met the pertinent bacteriological requirements, to achieve an optimum conservation and quality of the wine.
The "alteration and refurbishment" project, which included HVAC, lighting, fixtures, as well as accessibility between the ground floor and basement, was completed this spring. The distinguishing feature of the renovation is the undulating solid oak ceiling, which conceals the air conditioning system, "allowing expulsion through the peripheral limits where the ceiling meets the walls, and creating the air return through the gaps between the slats of the central arch." (The ceiling takes the same form on both floors, though central air is only required on the ground floor.)
Salasstudio incorporated the existing rows of pillars, which divided each floor into three naves, as ambient lighting elements, cladding them with granite and slatted stainless steel panels to match materials elsewhere in the design.
The doors of the freight elevator are concealed within the far wall.
Only the stainless steel trees strike me as a superfluous—albeit not unsightly—embellishment.
It's also worth mentioning that Rafael Vargas' photography captures the elegant symmetry of the space, 1860 square meters between the two floors.
In its essence, the alteration project was begging for a reduction and simplicity in the variety of materials; the main protagonist of the project were the wine barrels, so the concept of the project must have been based on resolving certain technical requirements and new systems, dignifying the architectural finish and achieving a globally harmonic space, functional and elegantly sober for the sanctuary of one of the "unique," excusing the repetition, best wines in the world.