Shooting at Château La Coste
Château la Coste is an unusual winery in Provence, South France, in the middle of an exceptional 500-acre biodynamic vineyard that hosts more than just grapevines. It’s a place of connection between wine, architecture, art and culture. Spread around the estate stand masterpieces of artists and architects from all over the world that have been invited to create a masterpiece that interprets the nature of the place.
Last May I had the chance to go there and spend a whole day to shoot it with my photographer friend Henry Woide. One single day is surely not enough to cover the great amount of architecture, sculptures and installations hosted in this magical place.
Approaching Château la Coste you’re welcomed by the magnificent Art Centre by Tadao Ando completed in 2011. Visitors can access the domain walking by a shallow pool of water while the thoughtful combination of smooth concrete walls and columns, water pools and glass, creates a structure that merges perfectly with the surrounding landscape.
Walking the road up the hill heading West, one of the first buildings you can find is the recently completed Labyrinth by the Danish artist Per Kirkeby. This geometric construction sits between sculpture and architecture. The labyrinth itself has no practical function, its purpose is to become a ruin with the time, and eventually merge with nature.
Just nearby, the Oak Room is an artificial cave built to focus on man’s relationship with the natural environment. It could be considered a piece of Land Art integrated into an old stone wall and composed by a vault made of oak trees put together with natural engineering and craft skills. As soon as you enter the room you can perceive the distinctive earthy smell and cool freshness. After a while your eyes adapt to the darkness and you can admire the details of the work.
Proceeding along the path to the top of the hill overlooking Château la Coste, you find a Chapel that dates back to the 16th century and was part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Tadao Ando retained and restored the ruins of the original structure, creating a new shell of glass and steel to protect it.
From its privileged position, it offers an unobstructed view of the surrounding vineyards and countryside. Ando’s trademark appears again with a concrete wall that encloses a small courtyard on the side of the chapel.
Glass, shadows and reflections together with the contrast between old and new, create a unique subject to photograph. A great example of architecture that shapes a peaceful place of silence and meditation.
On the way back towards the main buildings of the winery you find the Exhibition Pavilion by Renzo Piano. The building is set into the hill and has been built both to display art and preserve wine. It’s fully incorporated into the agricultural context and the sails of the roof recall the graphical pattern created by the vineyard.
The vaulted aluminium structure of the two wineries hosts the latest technology in winemaking. This is the place of production and storage of Château la Coste’s wine. Their industrial function is clearly stated by the architecture by Jean Nouvel and the simple and linear design visually connects the buildings with the surrounding landscape.
First presented at the Kennedy Centre in Washington in 2008 for the Japan Festival, this pavilion has been reinstalled at Château La Coste in 2011.
The installation exhibited inside the timber pavilion invites to contemplate the environment through the exploration of the four cubes. Again Ando’s signature can be seen in the simplicity of the forms and the use of light as a central feature.
The Music Pavilion was created by Frank Gehry in partnership with the Serpentine Gallery in London, where it was originally exhibited in 2008 with the support of Château La Coste before being installed permanently in its current position.
A complex network of overlapping glass planes creates a dramatic, multi-dimensional space. The Pavilion is an amphitheatre, designed to serve as a place for live events and it’s a perfect example of Gehry’s unique deconstructivist style.
More photos of Château La Coste can be found on this page.