National Wine Centre of Australia

National Wine Centre of Australia in Adelaide, Australia by Grieve Gillett and Cox Architects

Located in Adelaide, Australia, the National Wine Centre of Australia is a design by the firm Grieve Gillette and Cox Architects (now Cox Architects). Featured are images (click on each for larger format) by photographer Steve Rendoulis, also based in Adelaide. Text is courtesy of the photographer, with all images copyright Steve Rendoulis.

The design brief for the National Wine Centre called for a world class interpretive and educational centre representing the whole of the Australian wine industry. The building was to house wine industry offices, an interpretive exhibition, education areas, function hall, restaurant, cellaring and tasting facilities.

Just as wine carries the characteristics of the soil from which it is grown, key features of the site were used to guide the design. Adjacent to a major thoroughfare, offering limited access, the design had to connect a remote car park across a significant rise in level while respecting the adjoining botanic gardens. A number of elements, First Creek, the remnants of the Adelaide Lunatic Asylum (stone wall and stables), a line of jacarandas to the Botanic Gardens suggested a radial geometry originating from the South African acacia which is now the focus of the Centre's northern forecourt.

One arc of this geometry has been used to define the path on which the visitor travels, other arcs stretch into the landscape as the basis for the layout of the vineyard. The generosity of the site allowed ramps to be used to interconnect the varying levels. Buildings are arranged on this path allowing controlled views in and out of the centre.

The entry ramp is contained within an arcing timber screen, while suggesting seclusion from the city and a hint of the mystery of the wine making process, provides discreet openings towards historic Yarrabee and its gardens. Alongside a grand scale rammed earth wall, the positive, solid component of the arc on which the building is hung just as the Earth is the springing point of the vine.

As the ramp sweeps the focus is reversed with a solid boundary of buildings giving protection from the now nearby busy road and opening towards the Botanic Gardens and the vineyards that will dominate the view out for the remainder of the visit.

The main building was designed to evoke spaces found within a winery. The vaulted concourse brings filtered light and overlooks the open but subterranean cellar. In turn, it is overshadowed by the vat-like shapes of the Exhibition Halls deliberately enclosed to invite inquiry. Bridges and ramps cross through the space to give a factory/production quality.

With progression through the building it becomes more refined, like the process of making wine or the appreciation in learning about wine. The relatively coarse materials found at the beginning evolve into finer proportions and smoother textures. The scale of the spaces similarly progresses from the public to the personal, from the scale of production to the intimate the level of wine appreciation. This culminates in the tasting room. Elevated above the immediate surrounds to give privacy and a sense of detachment, with broad vistas of the Botanic Gardens and the vineyards it is an ideal environment in which to savour wine.

The type of construction took direction from the materials and textures that can be found at any vineyard such as rammed earth, stone, timber, glass, steel and stainless steel.

It takes its lead from the Australian Wine Industry in using a wide range of technologies from the traditional to the state of art, scientific approach. Rammed earth, an ancient building technique, is reinvigorated using steel that permits grand scale yet slender walls. The diagrid roof to the Busby Hall with domestic scale timber elements is precisely engineered to form a shell structure pre-stressed with stainless steel cables.

The design uses the innate quality of the materials to provide scale, texture and colour to the building. As a good wine is pared back to its essentials but layered to give richness, the materials are presented in their natural condition clearly displaying their function uncluttered by applied decoration.