Raise a Glass
Here's to the Winecenter Kaltern, the showcase that Feld72 built for the vineyards of Italy's South Tyrol
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 11/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Italy's South Tyrol has a split personality. It's culturally part Italian and part Austrian, with a dense dialect comprehensible only to natives. Yet the Winecenter Kaltern, nestled amid the Dolomites, has nothing split about it. Representing a collaborative of 410 regional vineyards, the tri-level building combines shopping and tasting areas in one clean, harmonious sweep that shows equal respect to all the bottles, whether a $10 table wine or a $300 Trento Denominazione di Origine Controllata.
The commission resulted from an invitational competition between five firms. Among them, the only one not in Italy was Feld72, an Austrian firm with a name derived from the office's street address. However, two of Feld72's five architect partners—most of whom are graduates of the Universität Wien—were born in the South Tyrol, leading the firm to become involved in several competitions there. The partners won the Winecenter Kaltern job on the combined strength of their previous urban interventions and architecture throughout Europe as well as a measure of renown from the Biennale di Venezia, 2004: Feld72 did an urban-space installation there.
Facing the Strada del Vino, the village's aptly named main road, the Winecenter reveals Feld72's ability to bridge the centuries—led by Peter Zoderer, acting as project architect, and Anne Catherine Fleith, in charge of furnishings. (She's the one partner who graduated from the Ecole d'Architecture de Strasbourg.) The team came up with an L-shape building that simultaneously creates a high-visibility icon for car traffic and respects a 1911 stone warehouse across the road.
The center's beige skin of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels imparts depth and substance, Zoderer notes: "Using them on the roof as well as the walls emphasizes the building's monolithic nature." At ground level, runs of frameless windows put the interiors onstage. Solar glazing on the upper levels has a translucent, scrimlike quality.
One wing, just a single story, is entirely dedicated to retail. The conjoined three-story tower has additional sales space at ground level, a wine bar and lounge on two, and a skylit tasting room at the top. With nary a full-height divider in the place, it seems far larger than its 4,000 square feet. (And it actually is: There's a 3,700-square-foot wine cellar, open by appointment.)
Aboveground, the interior is all white walls and ceiling, sand-colored epoxy-resin flooring, and acacia for the cash-wrap counter, the tasting bar, cabinetry, millwork, and some of the flooring. "There are very few materials, just white and wood," Fleith explains. "So the product stands out." Overlapping open levels carve up the volume into function zones. "A veritable wine tour is created through the complex progression of atmospheres and spatial impressions," Zoderer says.
That path begins with a figurative tour of the local wine country. Ambling along a central row of display tables, guests discover how the architects addressed one of their chief challenges: organizing and presenting a vast amount of merchandise. Tables for mid-value wine are all about utility, with an added pizzico of romance. Each can hold entire cartons below; the tops are incised to cradle single bottles, accompanied by laminated photos and text describing the vintage and vineyard in question. Along the walls, cabinets and shelves hold lower-priced wine. The most expensive bottles are stored in the cellar.
For the 40-seat lounge on the second level, Fleith selected tables in dark-stained beech and chairs covered in complementary black leather. In the tasting room at the very top, the palette lightens up with a long table topped in white linoleum and chairs with white leather-wrapped seats. "Against the white, the reds and yellows of the wine really shine," she says. Differences among merlots, cabernet sauvignons, pinot blancs, and Rieslings aside, the tasting room's only color comes from a row of small rectangular abstract paintings.
With neutral tones so dominant, saturated color truly bursts from behind the acacia doors of the three restrooms, completely awash in tinted epoxy. There's magenta for women, lime for men, and tangerine for the handicapped. Proof that the Winecenter Kaltern isn't completely sober, after all.