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10 of May '23

Interview from A&B issue 03|2023

There is probably no list of the most beautiful places in Europe that does not include Provence. Hospitable people, delicious cuisine, sunny climate, charming towns and breathtaking landscapes—all can be found in this southeastern region of France. No wonder, then, that this land invariably inspires successive generations of artists.

 „Drop” (2009) Toma Shannona to mobilna rzeźba w kształcie elipsoidy wykonana z polerowanej stali nierdzewnej

„Drop” (2009) by Tom Shannon is a mobile sculpture in the shape of an ellipsoid made of polished stainless steel

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

This is where famous painters van Gogh, Cézanne or Picasso lived and worked. And today, for example, popular actor John Malkovich, „Star Wars” director George Lucas or the leader of the rock band U2—Bono—live here. But every year crowds of „ordinary” tourists also come to Provence. They usually manage to see the rocky cliffs of Marseille, the wetlands of the Camargue or the sights of Arles or Avignon.

Few of them, however, will make it to the small commune of Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, with a population of barely six thousand . It is here, 15 kilometers north of Aix-en-Provence, near the Luberon Natural Park, that the reward for the persistent awaits. In a picturesque setting of olive groves, pine forests, lavender fields and vineyards lies a true sesame for lovers of contemporary architecture and art. This treasure is... the Château La Coste vineyard.

mapa całego założenia (rys.: Alain Glowczak)

Map of the entire establishment (drawing: Alain Glowczak)

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

The tradition of growing vines and making wine on the Château La Coste site dates back to ancient Roman times, archaeologists' research has shown. The modern history of the vineyard dates back to 1682, when the local landed estate—the eponymous château—was established. The most important caesura in the history of the estate, however, was in 2002, when the farm was purchased by Irish businessman Patrick McKillen. Paddy (for that is what the entrepreneur prefers to be called) is a completely unique character. Born in Belfast in 1955, he dropped out of school at the age of just sixteen to help with the family business—a chain of car repair shops. He later invested the money he earned in real estate with a commercial function. In recent years, McKillen has focused on building a portfolio of luxury hotels (today it's more than two dozen properties from Argentina to Japan). The businessman also has special ties with France (culminating in the French government awarding him the title of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters). As early as the 1990s, he was a frequent guest of his sister Mary, who lives in Provence (incidentally, his other sister Trina is an acclaimed artist). Eventually, he too succumbed to the charm of the region and decided to buy a property here. The search for a suitable location lasted more than two years, until McKillen purchased Château La Coste in 2002. The Irishman significantly expanded the acreage (to over 200 hectares, including 130 hectares of vines) and changed the production profile, focusing on quality organic wines (with the extremely popular rosé at the forefront). However, this was not to determine the future success of the place. After all, McKillen wanted to create in the midst of the Provençal hills a real mecca for lovers of contemporary architecture and art.

mapa centralnej części założenia (rys.: Alain Glowczak)

Map of the central part of the establishment (drawing: Alain Glowczak)

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Château La Coste invited world-class architects to work on the expansion, including as many as eight winners of the prestigious Pritzker Prize. Interestingly, the investor gave them extraordinary freedom of action not only regarding the form, but also the function and even the location of individual elements of the establishment. The greatest contribution to the development of the entire complex was made by Japanese Tadao Ando (whom McKillen met while renovating The Connaught hotel in London). He prepared as many as six projects for Château La Coste, five of which have already come to fruition. Visitors to the winery are greeted by a concrete entrance gate designed by the Osaka-based architect (2011). It is formed by two straight planes decorated with a distinctive regular pattern of shuttering holes. Further along the scenic road leads to the Center d „Art (2011) serving as a visitor center. The concrete pavilion is laid out on a V-shaped plan, forming two asymmetrical wings that meet at a 25-degree angle. The larger module houses the reception area and a small bookstore. The smaller segment, in turn, houses a restaurant with an outdoor terrace located along a shallow pond. The pool surrounding the building overlooks the underground parking lot, but primarily serves as a display area for three notable works of art: "Crouching Spider 6695” by Louise Bourgeois, „Mathematical Model 012” Hiroshi Sugimoto, and „Small Crinkly” by Alexander Calder. With its mirrored reflections in the water, numerous view openings and generous glazing, the Centre d "Art building seems to merge with its surroundings. This impression is heightened by the concrete colonnade cutting into the surrounding greenery, which symbolically directs you to Tadao Ando's next realization. Indeed, St. Giles Chapel (2011) sits atop a nearby hill. The project is based on the remains of a small historic temple. The architect's modest intervention was limited to restoring the stone walls and cladding them with a striking exterior of glass and steel. Equally interesting solutions were applied to the interior of the chapel. Through a small window opening behind the altar and a gap between the walls and the roof, sunlight enters the dark interior (which may bring to mind another well-known Ando project—the Church of Light in Ibaraki). Complementing the chapel is an adjacent triangular square surrounded by a wall, housing a red glass cross—an installation by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel.

Centre d”Art (2011)

Centre d „Art (2011)—Tadao Ando is the heart of the entire establishment serving as a visitor center; the pavilion provides an attractive setting for the presentation of artists' works like the spatial installation "Boxes Full of Air” designed by Sean Scully (2015) or the sculpture „Crouching Spider 6695” (2003) by Louise Bourgeois

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Another Ando signature object at Château La Coste—the „Four Cubes to Contemplate Our Environment” pavilion—is a voice in the discussion of sustainability. The simple wooden structure was created for an exhibition in Washington in 2008, but has been on permanent display in Provence since 2011. The interior of the building houses a fractious art installation in the form of four glass cubes (each 3 meters on a side). The first, filled with compressed cans, addresses the issue of overproduction of waste. The second, full of plastic bottles, addresses the issue of limited water resources in the world. The third, with a screen with an evocative „burning” projection, draws attention to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. The fourth cube was purposely left empty to make visitors reflect on the state of our planet. The interior of the pavilion is symbolically plunged into darkness, with the only sources of light being the aforementioned cubes and the gap left between the walls and the roof. The location of the entrance to the interior at the back of the building is also an interesting trick. Complementing the architectural designs of the Osaka-based master at Château La Coste are the „Origami” (2011) metal canopy benches, which can be found in several places in the complex.

dopełnieniem budynku Centre D”Art jest wcinająca się w zieleń betonowa kolumnada

The Centre D "Art building is complemented by a concrete colonnade cutting into the greenery

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Next to Tadao Ando, perhaps the greatest contribution to the winery's expansion was made by another Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel. It was he who designed the two production halls, completed in 2008. Both buildings are in an industrial style inspired by the work of Jean Prouvé and aircraft hangars. Both buildings took the form of half-cylinders 10 meters high covered with corrugated aluminum sheeting. The smaller building houses the initial preparation of wine grapes for processing. The larger one, on the other hand, houses fermentation tanks, barrel aging room and storage on two floors (including a basement reaching 17 meters into the ground). Interestingly, thanks to the steep slope of the terrain and the underground connection of the two halls, the production process here uses mainly... gravity. However, this is not the end of Jean Novel's experiments at Château La Coste. The construction of the Chai à Barrique oenological academy remains in the realm of plans. Meanwhile, construction of a unique spatial setting for Louise Bourgeois' art installation "I Do, I Undo, I Redo" is already underway at the complex. The work was originally created for the inaugural Turbine Hall exhibition at London's Tate Modern gallery in 2000 (as part of the famous The Unilever Series). Bourgeois' work consists of three monumental corten modules. Two of them are observation towers as high as 9 meters, decorated at the top with circular mirrors. Nouvel's emerging design involves hiding the entire installation inside a large biomorphic form that can resemble a hillock.

 otaczająca pawilon płytka sadzawka to miejsce ekspozycji rzeźby „Mathematical Model 012” (2010) Hiroshiego Sugimoto

The shallow pond surrounding the pavilion is the site of the sculpture „Mathematical Model 012” (2010) by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Another famous architect whose work we can encounter at Château La Coste is Frank O. Gehry. In fact, his pavilion created in 2008 as part of the famous summer series of London's Serpentine gallery is permanently exhibited on the vineyard grounds. The deconstructivist structure made of wood, glass and steel is often used as a stage for outdoor music concerts, film screenings or theatrical performances due to its exquisite acoustics. In addition, Gehry collaborated with friend artist Tony Berlant to create the spatial installation "The Marriage of Athens and New York."

drewniany pawilon „Four Cubes to Contemplate Our Environment” (2008-2011) Tadao Ando mieszczący proekologiczną instalację artystyczną

The wooden pavilion „Four Cubes to Contemplate Our Environment” (2008-2011) by Tadao Ando housing a pro-environmental art installation

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Renzo Piano also made his contribution to the Château La Coste project in 2017. This is because the Italian architect designed an intimate exhibition gallery of 285 square meters here. Based on a trapezoidal plan, the building is intended to serve as a place for photographic temporary exhibitions and... storage for the most valuable bottles of wine. It should come as no surprise, then, that the pavilion is almost entirely tucked into the hill. Were it not for the uniquely sculptural roof, it might even be overlooked.

inna interwencja Japończyka w Château La Coste - kaplica św. Idziego (2011), wykonana głównie ze szkła i stali

Another Japanese intervention at Château La Coste—the Chapel of St. Giles (2011), made mainly of glass and steel

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Somewhat hidden, though this time in the treetops, is also another development, the work of Briton Richard Rogers. Completed in 2020, the 120-square-meter structure houses a graphics gallery and a small outdoor viewing terrace. The pavilion takes the form of a cuboid protruding from the hillside for as much as 27 meters (sic!). This effect was achieved by framing the building with a structural steel truss, additionally painted bright orange. Interestingly, the gallery at Château La Coste is a kind of bracket in the work of Rogers, who died in December 2021—it was his last completed project, although it strongly resembles the early concept of Zip-Up House.

dwie hale produkcyjne (2008) zaprojektowane przez Jeana Nouvela przyjęły formy półwalców pokrytych aluminiową blachą falistą; w podziemnej części jednej z nich znajdują się tanki fermentacyjne

two production halls (2008) designed by Jean Nouvel took the forms of half-cylinders covered with corrugated aluminum sheets; the underground part of one of them houses fermentation tanks

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

A pavilion designed by Oscar Niemeyer was also posthumously completed. Completed last year, the building is the newest element of the entire establishment. The building took on the organic form characteristic of the Brazilian's work. It consists of two interconnected parts: a curved teardrop-shaped module and a cylinder. They accommodate, respectively, a small exhibition gallery (380 square meters) and an intimate auditorium with eighty-three seats (140 square meters). With its partial recess in the ground, generous glazing and adjacent pond, the building seems to almost meld with the surrounding scenery of wine-growing fields.

dwie hale produkcyjne (2008) zaprojektowane przez Jeana Nouvela przyjęły formy półwalców pokrytych aluminiową blachą falistą; w podziemnej części jednej z nich znajdują się tanki fermentacyjne

The two production halls (2008), designed by Jean Nouvel, took the forms of half-cylinders covered with corrugated aluminum sheets; the underground part of one of them houses fermentation tanks

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

However, this is not the end of the promenade of architectural celebrities at Château La Coste. The visions of the following Pritzker Prize winners, Brazilian Paul Mendes da Rocha (an observation tower) and Englishman Norman Foster (a prototype of an autonomous house in the shape of a geodesic dome and a metal observation platform), are still waiting to be realized. Moreover, Sou Fujimoto or Junya Ishigami have also prepared their proposals for the Provençal vineyard. While waiting for the materialization of their projects, we are left to admire the work of another Japanese titled. „Komorebi.” And there would be nothing strange about it, if its author was not an architect—Kengo Kuma, and the work itself—a sculpture.

 pawilon muzyczny (2008) Franka O. Gehry”ego pierwotnie powstał na potrzeby słynnego letniego cyklu londyńskiej galerii Serpentine; w Prowansji służy za scenę plenerowych koncertów, spektakli teatralnych i seansów filmowych

Frank O. Gehry's Music Pavilion (2008) was originally created for the famous summer series of London's Serpentine gallery; in Provence it serves as a stage for outdoor concerts, theatrical performances and film screenings

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

At Château La Coste, by the way, the boundary between architecture and art seems to have become very blurred. Some of the works completed here by artists have even taken the form of buildings. Such is the nature of, for example: „Silver Room” by Tia-Thuy Nguyen, „Oak Room” by Andy Goldsworthy, „Brick Labyrinth” by Per Kirkeby, „Multiplied Resistance Screened” by Liam Gillick, „House of Air” by Lee Ufan or the still under construction monumental chapel designed by Damien Hirst.

 pawilon muzyczny (2008) Franka O. Gehry”ego pierwotnie powstał na potrzeby słynnego letniego cyklu londyńskiej galerii Serpentine; w Prowansji służy za scenę plenerowych koncertów, spektakli teatralnych i seansów filmowych

Frank O. Gehry's Music Pavilion (2008) was originally built for the famous summer series of London's Serpentine Gallery; in Provence, it serves as a stage for outdoor concerts, theatrical performances and film screenings

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

The complex also features topographical installations: „Aix” by Richard Serra, „Donegal” by Larry Neufeld, „Ruyi Path” by Ai Weiwei or „Circle of Riverstones” by Richard Long. The winery also has many classic sculptures, including: „Faux Pas” by Franz West, „Psicopompos” by Tunga, „Drop” by Tom Shannon or „Schism” by Conrad Shawcross. Finally, there are projects that elude clear classification, such as: „Wild Time Flowers” by Tatsuo Miyajima, „Meditation Bell” by Paul Matisse, „Self-Portrait: Cat Inside a Barrel” by Tracey Emin or „Dead End” by Sophie Calle. At Château La Coste we also often come across works by artists associated with McKillen's homeland of Ireland. Examples include: „Calix Meus Inebrians” by Guggi, „Intifada” by Siobhán Hapaska or „Wall of Light Cubed” and „Boxes Full of Air” by Sean Scully. The work of artists associated with the music scene is also strongly represented, so there are the „Foxes” sculptures of former R.E.M group singer Michael Stipe, Bob Dylan's „Rail Car” installation or Yoko Ono's „Wish Trees” project. We will also find even a small Polish thread in the vineyard. This is because at several points in the complex there are benches from Jenny Holzer's „Truism benches” series, also presented in front of Warsaw's Ujazdowski Castle. While none of the mentioned works can be denied their charm, a large landscape installation designed by James Turrell, planned for the complex, stands a good chance of overshadowing them all.

 pawilon ekspozycyjny (2017) projektu Renza Piano częściowo ukryty jest we wzgórzu i wykorzystywany głównie na potrzeby wystaw czasowych; na zdjęciu prezentacja prac Guggiego

The exhibition pavilion (2017) designed by Renz Piano is partially hidden in the hill and used mainly for temporary exhibitions; pictured is a presentation of Guggi's work

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Château La Coste's impressive collection, however, includes more than just architecture and contemporary art. On the grounds of the establishment you will also find two prototype houses (6×6 and 6×9 models) and the Galerie des Masques by Jean Prouvé, as well as... a centuries-old Vietnamese tea pavilion. The vineyard's historic buildings have been renovated to house new functions: a temporary exhibition gallery (designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte), a signature restaurant by Argentine star chef Francis Mallmann (McKillen also owns the country's twin La Coste de los Andes winery), a pizzeria, a bistro, a conference room, a tasting bar and a wine store.

 rzeźba „Komorebi” (2008) Kengo Kumy powstała z 239 belek z egzotycznego drewna ipe; jej tytuł nawiązuje do japońskiego terminu określającego promienie słoneczne przedostające się przez korony drzew

Kengo Kuma's sculpture „Komorebi” (2008) was created from 239 beams of exotic ipe wood; its title refers to the Japanese term for the sun's rays coming through the treetops

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Since 2016, the establishment has also included a luxury hotel—Villa La Coste. The property is the result of a collaboration between Marseilles-based design studio Tangram (headed by Christopher Green), Hong Kong-based interior designer André Fu, and... McKillen himself. The hotel complex includes twenty-eight exclusive suites, as well as many common areas (lobby, bar, lounge with fireplace, library, spa and outdoor pool). An attraction in itself is the local restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze. Perhaps the biggest draw of Villa La Coste, however, is the fact that around the clock here we can interact with more outstanding works of art from the McKillen collection (often accompanied by guests from the front pages of newspapers). But as if that weren't enough, a second hotel is soon to be built as part of the premise, this time of a slightly less formal nature.

„House of Air” (2014) Lee Ufana to projekt będący rodzajem kaplicy kontemplacyjnej

„House of Air” (2014) by Lee Ufan is a project that is a kind of contemplative chapel

photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Developed for more than two decades, the Château La Coste project is a concept that is by all means unique. A visit to Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade is a guarantee of an unforgettable experience, not only for connoisseurs of wine, architecture or art. Interestingly, despite the fact that the complex is a prestigious private initiative, a large part of the establishment remains open to the public, in addition, free of charge. Notabene similarly shaped is the offer of local liquors, available for both shallower and deeper pockets. The winery's many efforts in favor of ecology (certified organic production, its own vegetable garden for catering, or support for electromobility) also deserve praise. Although Château La Coste attracts visitors from all over the world, it also does not forget about the local community, with extensive cultural and educational activities (from temporary exhibitions to yoga sessions). Perhaps Paddy McKillen's greatest success, however, is the fact that his Provençal collection of architecture and art (which already includes more than forty objects and is very diverse) is still uniquely in tune with the local landscape. Will this harmony be preserved in the future as the project develops? Time will tell. However, it is certainly a great excuse to return to Provence....

 „Ruyi Path” (2017) Ai Weiweia to rodzaj ścieżki krajobrazowej wykonanej z kamieni wydobytych z portu w Marsylii, która jest nawiązaniem do problemu kryzysu migracyjnego

„Ruyi Path” (2017) by Ai Weiwei is a kind of landscape path made of stones excavated from the port of Marseille, which is a reference to the problem of the migrant crisis

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

Photo: Michal Haduch, Bartosz Haduch

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