Page D1.2 . 20 June 2007                     
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    Dominus in Depth


    The long low form, perpendicular to the approach, is relieved by two large rectangular archways. The main entry archway is directly on axis with the gravel road one arrives by, which first passes perfectly below the over-arching limbs of a majestic ancient oak, and which continues beyond the building out through the vineyard to a distant cleft in the rolling backdrop hills. The modern object, which would be alien in its abstraction except for its thick local stone wrapping, turns out to be keyed in placed by the history of the site in millions and hundreds of years.

    Inside the main archway, a suitably-large painting hangs over a simple bench on the tank room side. On the right or western side, a pair of openings balance the strong simple interior elevation, one to the stair and elevator up to the offices and event areas, the other through thick bottle-green glass doors to the tasting room and the sunken barrel room beyond it.

    The stair upwards is turned back, so that arriving on the upper floor terrace, both indoor and outdoor, one is faced northward at the sweeping sunlit view across the front vineyard and across the valley, with the reception and administrative offices cased purely in glass, inset to the left several feet inward from the building wall. Overhead the ceiling is clad in fine gray metal mesh, with perfectly minimal detailing at every boundary.

    The sweeping view is framed by large metal mesh, as if trellising above, with solid-feeling steel tubing cantilevers from above as a supporting structure, planar-to and on-module with the gabion surface below and beside. The long view slot parallels and dramatizes the long circulation edges of the upper floor terrace.

    At the far west of the upper floor, beyond the administrative suite, a large open area serves as a flexible event space, flanked to the south by another sheer-glass enclosure for the conference room, and wrapped at the perimeter by the continued horizontal syncopation of steel cross-braced gabions and mesh-trellised view slots.

    Completing the perimeter circuit around through 180 degrees, back to the balcony edge enfronting the two-story space at the main entry archway, one encounters another magic. The dark corridor of a walkway bridging the flat archway opening is magically illuminated with shards of brilliant light, a crystal cave turned of the simple gabions, concrete, and steel.

    The second archway through the building mass is a much more private working space, without axial drama and flanked in the south facade by a single window each informally - through perfectly - placed to the side and above. At the far east end of the building, ground-level-to-parapet gabion walls of the larger fill rock serve to wrap an outdoor working courtyard, allowing any messy activity that might otherwise distract the purity of building-in-landscape to instead be chastely contained.

    Symmetries are loose yet finely-balanced throughout the facade and spatial compositions. All the breadth of winery functions, from greeting, management, and sales to receiving, processing, fermenting, bottling, and aging, are unified into the one pure building block. The gabion skin and rectilinear massing impress the solidity of a brick, yet are permeated richly and repeatedly with transparent modulations. It is a foreign object of pure geometry, yet beautifully-sited and roughly, warmly local in color, texture, and chemistry. The gabion facade walls that provide for such aesthetic subtly in composition serve also to effectively moderate the valley climate for human and enological occupants alike.

    Permitted under later-day planning rules that prohibit retail customers (to prevent death-by-traffic of Napa Valley's agricultural essence) the Dominus Estate Winery is not open to visitation. It is an art collectors' art object, which we can be pleased to appreciate from a distance, and in photographs, grasping simply how elegantly its concept is embodied. It is an object lesson in less becoming much, much more.   >>>

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    ArchWeek Image

    Overview of Dominus Winery by Herzog and DeMeuron.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    The main entry space of the winery, seen here from the south (or back) side, is set in a bold rectangular archway.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    The metal mesh gabion baskets and their wire connections are an important part of the minimalist ornamental language of the winery.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    The simple components of metal mesh, two sizes of rock, and steel tube framing on a matching module combine in an elevated composition.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    Inside the main entry archway, the composed interior elevation continues the deliberate-while-simple language of the design.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    A severe stairway leads up from the cool, enclosed areas below to the transparent administrative areas above.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    Upstairs, an internal balcony connects the office lobby area with the main entry archway.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images

    ArchWeek Image

    Glazed boxes set in from the facade wall provide both functional separation and visual connection for the offices.
    Kevin Matthews/Artifice Images


    Click on thumbnail images
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