Dominus Estate

From the Dominus Estate promotional material...
From the Dominus Estate promotional material…

With the upcoming artist in residency at the de Young museum shortly approaching in September, research is still in order.  As a result, made a trip to Dominus Estate winery in Yountville to see the stunning building designed by the same architecture firm that designed the de Young Museum: Herzong & de Meuron.  During the month, I’ll be working on a 42×360 inches paper installation based on the architecture and/or art collections.  As a result, wanted to take photos and draw sketches for possible future drawings.

I adore the architecture and the textured copper panel façade of the de Young museum and undoubtedly had to see more of the amazing duo’s work.  Diana Ketcham (author of the de Young in the 21st Century): “As an alternative to the initial consideration of wood siding and glass, the architects proposed a more unusual surface, copper mesh.  The mesh scheme triggered interest in the design community, where many admired Dominus Winery’s façade of wire mesh and rock, and the filigree of light and shadow it produced in the interior.”  After reading Ketcham’s book, wanted to visit the inspiration of the museum’s surface.

Outside copper facade of the de Young museum...
Outside copper facade of the de Young museum…

Dominus Winery in Yountville is a short and more enjoyable drive compared to the Bay Bridge rush hour gridlock.  The winery only allows limited facility tours once a month with an advance reservation.  On my visit, a collection of New York City architects, local landscape architecture students, and admirers were in attendance.  Regina Feiner (tour guide) discussed the history, wine, and architecture details.  There was no wine tasting involved because Dominus doesn’t have the proper permit for that use.

According to Dominus Estate’s website: “Completed in 1997 by the visionary Swiss architects, Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the Dominus Estate Winery is perfectly integrated into its landscape, offering panoramic views of the vineyard and hillsides.  With its gabion façade, the winery seems to dissolve into its surroundings, an intentional effect, underscoring the importance of the vineyard in the production of a great wine.  The winery was Herzog and de Meruon’s first project outside of Europe.  From Basel, Switzerland, the architects have since constructed numerous renowned buildings, including the Tate Modern in London, the Allianz Stadium in Munich, The PRADA Boutique in Tokyo, the  de Young Museum in San Francisco and the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium in Beijing.  In 2001, they were awarded the Pritzker Prize, contemporary architecture’s highest award.”

The surface of the winery is very intriguing and after the tour wanted to research the reasoning behind its design.  From the Herzong and de Meuron’s website: “In front of the façades, we placed gabions, a device used in river engineering, that is, wire containers filled with stones.  Added to the walls, they form an inert mass that insulates the rooms against heat by day and cold at night.  We chose local basalt that ranges from dark green to black and blends in beautifully with the landscape.  The gabions are filled more or less densely as needed so that parts of the walls are very impenetrable while others allow the passage of light: natural light comes into the rooms during the day and artificial light seeps through the stones at night.  You could describe our use of the gabions as kind of stone wickerwork with varying degrees of transparency, more like skin than like traditional masonry.”  The shadows/textures created by the combination of stones and wire containers, created amazing shadows and dynamic lines.

Rocks on the ground in front of the winery.
Rocks on the ground in front of the winery.

Would love to share photos from the visit but the winery informed all visitors that no images of the building could be used.  As a result, emailed the winery hoping to utilize and reference some of the images for the upcoming residency.  Dominus Estate responded saying I could use the images for reference but they can’t be published.  Honestly, it’s disappointing to not be able to post photos with sources on this blog (below is a youTube video featuring the winery).  However, being an artist I understand the frustration and disgust of seeing my art being exploited on websites, publications, and etc. without my permission.  Either way, Herzong and de Meuron’s stunning architecture will continue to encourage and hopefully elevate the expectations of artists like myself.  That is the magic of truly stellar art.

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