Digging so as not to compete with the landscape

The American architects Olson Kundig design the underground cellars on the Mission Hill Estate

by Malcolm Clark
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Olson Kundig Architects was asked to expand the spaces of Mission Hill Family Estate, a winery producing great wines in one of the most beautiful and uncontaminated regions of Canada. Since its first visit, the American architecture office felt the need to design architecture that was not competing with, but complemented, the natural beauty of the landscape.

The intention was to create a new space for the storing the wine without filling the horizon with a great volume, but offering the visitors to the winery a completely new and different experience. The winery already had many spaces dedicated to the visitors. The great arch at the entrance gives access to a real universe dedicated to wine.

A wine education centre, a small open-air theatre and amphitheatre which opens on the surrounding hills, everything in this place recalls an atmosphere of almost monastic serenity and maybe it is no coincidence that the focal point is actually a 12 storey bell tower.


The new wine cellars were blasted into the volcanic rock. With a capacity of 800 barrels, this temperature and humidity controlled area is dedicated to storage, fermentation and careful ageing of the wine. The architectural philosophy is clear in the sensations that this space transmits.

Descending the stairs leading to the caves, the visitor is greeted with an unreal silence, like in a gigantic underground Cathedral where it is natural to speak in whispers, maybe so as not to disturb the wine.

The only source of natural light here is an oculus sitting above the ground. This great eye is the symbol of the winery and oculus, from the Latin for eye, is also the name of its premium wine selection.

    Mission Hill Family Estate Winery 20

    Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

    West Kelowna / Canada / 2000