(December 2008) Nicknamed the „Guggenheim of Wine“, the edifice unmistakably resembles and was obviously inspired by the Guggenheim-Museum in Bilbao. No wonder: the „Ciudad del Vino“ or „City of Wine“ by the town of Elciego, in Àlava province was conceived by the famous Californian architect, Frank O. Gehry who was responsible for planning Bilbao’s Museum of Modern Art. But this time the tin roof elements stand side-by-side local sandstone – resulting in many a raised eyebrow during planning. Again in 2008, awards were presented for this symbol of Rioja Marqués de Riscal wine marketing.
One of the more alluring aspects of the building is its playful way of dealing with contrasts on several levels simultaneously. Not only are the building-materials contradistinctive: titanium and steel imported from afar representing the modern, and sandstone (and glass) as examples of traditional building materials supplied by the nearby Spanish Areniscas de los Pinares company. But the contrasts don’t stop there. Whereas the metal used for the roof construction resembles brandishing curls, the stone is interspersed in form of cubes, which jot out of the walls and makes them come alive.
Vilviestone, was chosen for the task by Areniscas, retrieved in Vilviestre del Pinar. In all about 6000 m² were mined, 3500 m² of which were 3 cm thick and used for the front and siding and 1800 m² of which were 3 – 5 cm thick and served as flooring. One of the greatest challenges was the architect’s requirement of homogenous appearance making it necessary to cut the siding out of one block. Vilviestone-sandstone is known for its high quartz-content – 96 %.
The complex harbours a high-class hotel belonging to the chain A Luxury Collection, as well as several restaurants, a meeting venue and the unique Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa as presented on the website.
Though Gehry’s complex is once again unique, the idea of using a marketing venue to promulgate a wine is not entirely novel. The Rioja Chivite brand had taken award-winning architect Rafael Moneo under contract and the Bodega-Chain Ysios had won over Santiago Calatrava for their cause.
Photos: Marqués de Riscal, a Luxury Collection Hotel / Adrian Tyler