Yesterday I visited one of the world’s most remarkable winery buildings. I had dinner at the Marqués de Riscal ‘City of Wine’. I’d heard about Riscal’s bold architecture, but it’s only when you get close and see the construction face to face that you realise how stunning it is. It pops out of the sleepy-looking village of Elciego in an explosion of dramatic swirls and colours. I’ve never seen anything like this before.
Designed by celebrated Canadian architect Frank Gehry, it was opened in 2006. It combines the large Riscal winery winery with a luxury hotel. Gehry isn’t new to this part of the world, of course, and is famous for the titanium-clad Guggenheim museum in Bilbao.
Riscal’s building borrowed some of the techniques from the construction of the Guggenheim. Its most distinctive feature is the beautiful waving metal canopies that clad the structure of the building. While these aren’t heavy, the design had to be tested in a wind tunnel in Canada because they can act like sails, adding stresses to the building in heavy winds.
They are quite stunning, and there are around 20 of them, in different colours. They are covered in titanium which came from Japan, and has been treated with a special process that changes the colour.
These ribbons are designed to be a metaphor for wine flooding out of a bottle. Hence the colour choices.
[Interestingly, if you choose to stay here, note that just 14 rooms are located in the Gehry-designed building, with the remainder in a non-Gehry-designed annex – something to bear in mind when you book.]