A traditional winery that looks to the future

Castanheira & Bastai's project in the region of the great Portuguese wines

by Malcolm Clark
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Portuguese design office Castanheira & Bastai Arcquitectos have carried out careful work on designing the Winery Casa da Torre, in the heart of the hills in the north of Portugal, where they make the most famous wines in the region.

For centuries a winery has been just that; a placed to store and mature wines. A place full of cobwebs and dust which marked the passage of time and trends, even those in architecture. It's no longer what it used to be, dust and cobwebs no longer have a place in the new wineries, which have become true laboratories ruled by strict laws on hygiene. A winery is a place of alchemy, where changes in temperature can speed up or slow down the ageing of the wine...

This winery attempts this, while remaining true to itself, without changing its appearance into a chemistry lab and without worrying much about appearing photogenic. Starting from its excellent orientation, the project attempts to solve all the design themes in a balanced manner. Half buried into the site, its southern side is sheltered from direct sunshine and resulting high temperatures. The north side, on the other hand, is protected from cold winds by a high and thick granite wall. The entrances and the visitors' areas are to the west.

The pitched roof spans 18 metres and this size forced the introduction of a row of undesired and undesirable central pillars. Their number was, however, reduced to a minimum, by means of support stanchions, which also accommodate the elevated gantry leading to the offices. The staircase leading up to this gantry is one of the few poetic concessions, with the steps wedged off-centre to the beam, although it seems to pay more homage to the local craftsmen than to contemporary design. Light, but only as much as is needed, is filtered through a timber screen on all sides. At the entrance a small pavilion, like a wooden vat, is used as an office and a tasting room.

The architecture seems to only add the necessary, respecting what was already present. Some water sources that had been forgotten were again tapped into and used to keep the ideal temperature and humidity in the winery.

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    Winery Casa da Torre 59

    Winery Casa da Torre

    Vila Nova de Famalicão / Portugal / 2009