A Fruitful Endeavor

Nick Myall
Friday 22 Jun 2018

Fed by the client’s desire to create the best Pinot Noir and Riesling gravity-fed winery in the world, Olson Kundig have created Martin’s Lane Winery in Canada

Tucked into a hillside in Kelowna, British Columbia, Olson Kundig’s design of the newest von Mandl Family Estates winery draws a close parallel between the topography of the land and the gravity-flow winemaking process taking place inside. Conceived of as a simple rectangular form with a central split or “fracture” down the middle, the production side of the building follows the direction of the site, utilizing the downhill slope for its gravity-flow process. The other half containing the visitor area cantilevers out over the vineyards, offering sweeping views of nearby Okanagan Lake and the iconic belltower of Mission Hill Winery, von Mandl’s first winery in the region, also designed by architect Tom Kundig.

2The functional areas of Martin’s Lane step down the hillside, from the grape-receiving area at the top, through fermentation and the settling room, down to the bottling room on the above ground level, and finally the below-ground barrel storage area. Throughout its 34,800 square feet, the winery’s office, wine lab and visitor spaces are woven into the manufacturing areas, including a tasting room, dining room, and visitor walkways that offer intimate glimpses of the production process. The design’s central “fracture” allows for an expansive line of clerestory windows here, increasing natural daylight intake into the production areas, as well as opening impressive views of the surrounding vineyards and natural landscape. The building’s exterior is cladded with obsidian-painted structural steel, while rusted corrugated steel is used for siding and roof overhangs. Siding panels are tilted downhill to visually underscore the story of the gravity-flow process.

Guided tours bring visitors into the facility through a rough formed concrete tunnel and then to a private tasting room accented by a glass and perforated-steel wall that overlooks the barrel storage area. A custom-designed and fabricated spiral steel staircase leads up to a larger tasting room and visitor experience area with perforated steel on the outside and solid steel inside. The form of the staircase was inspired by the stainless steel filtering equipment used in the wine industry, as well as by the Fibonacci sequence that reflects how grapevines propagate. Much like the building itself, interior details tell the story of the meticulous winemaking process that VMF Estates has worked for generations to refine.

Commenting on the project Tom Kundig, Design Principal at Olson Kundig said: “We were honoured to be involved in this project because it’s the family’s desire that this be the best Pinot Noir and Riesling gravity-fed winery in the world. They are working to put Canada on the world map in terms of winemaking, and they wanted a building that matched that agenda.” 

Tom went on to say, “The idea of the building is to embrace both the landscape and the nature of gravity-fed wineries. Because it’s on a hillside, it was an ideal location amongst the vineyards of the area. The building falls along the topography of the land where the production happens, while the hospitality portion of the program cantilevers out over the landscape, opening the space to the lake, the vineyards, and the mountains beyond.”

Commenting on the Winery’s layout Tom said: “The building is split into two parts, with one part literally following the land, and the other part following the horizon line. My favorite element of the project is the magic that happens when these two parts of the building come together. mThis building respects the delicate nature of the winemaking process. Not only that, but it makes logical sense how the building fits into the landscape – the hospitality portion is up above, cantilevering over the land, while the quiet, dark, humid part of the building is the wine cellar below.” 

Martin’s Lane Winery has won several awards including: The 2016 AIA Seattle Honor Awards, Honor Award, the 2017 AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Honor Awards, Citation Award and the 2017 Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Awards.

Nick Myall

News editor

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