Page D1.1 . 20 June 2007                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Dominus in Depth

by Kevin Matthews

Almost ten years ago, the Dominus Estate Winery was one of Herzog and de Meuron's first works in the U.S. to catch critical attention. To understand the design approach of this Pritzker and Stirling Prize-winning firm, and more importantly in terms of the architecture itself, it is worth taking a closer look.

Obviously a powerful, dramatic piece of pure Modernist minimalism, on close inspection the Dominus Winery turns out to also be a richly integrated building. To start, synthesis is worn on its face, where the pure, hard, abstract silhouette is grounded by its rendering in rough local stone, stacked via the surprising informality of the gabions (rectangular baskets of heavy wire mesh, filled with rock, which are typically used in retaining earthworks).

The long, low rectangle of the main facade is severe. But within the overall plain rectangular wall expression of the gabions there is a charming measure of finer detail. Variation in the wire mesh density and in the size of fill rock are finely orchestrated to a classical gravitational theme, with the strength of high-density mesh and close-packed rock establishing robustness at the base, then a middle then of more open mesh with close-packed rock for the main wall, capped by a top band with the more open spacing of larger rock.   >>>

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The Dominus Winery by Herzog and DeMeuron, 1998, is at once both an abstract object in the landscape, and an intricately engaged part of the landscape.
Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

ArchWeek Image

The scale and geometry of the winery integrate with the ruled lines of the surrounding vineyard.
Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images


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