How does a utilitarian wine shed become the new home for a young wine, and become a gateway for new audiences to wine and unique food? How does one engage with a Dionysian culture whilst creating a calm Apollonian and cerebral spatial experience?
We had to create a fresh and lightweight architectural response to the existing shed and environs, employing what we call “cascading space”, where spaces lead and flow unto each visually and physically. The architectural language of glass, steel and wood is designed to create a sharp and arresting contrast with the setting, whilst allowing views of the vineyards to penetrate deep into the interior. Clarity of approach and slights of hand with axial and asymmetrical elements allow for the space to be clearly understood, and yet with enough difference in detail and architectural moments to offer delight to the visitor.
The palate of colours were restricted and disciplined so as not to compete with the wine and food pairings, the intention from the outset was to create a comfortable space and place for the everyday visitor and endearing design clues for those who are familiar with cutting edge contemporary design. The design effectively creates an intimate experience that inspires recurring and subtle wonder. The architecture is intentionally athletic, unadorned with unnecessary clutter, and blends a type of minimal timelessness into the design that lifts the brand of Leopard’s Leap.
The brief called for an existing shed-like structure, on a farm just outside of Franschhoek in the Western Cape to be converted into the home of Leopard’s Leap Wine. Spatial requirements included a tasting area and private tasting lounge, a demonstration kitchen and culinary studio for world renowned chef Liam Tomlin, a boardroom, offices and other associated functional spaces. Most of these requirements could be accommodated in the existing facility and it was only necessary to add two new structures to the South and West. They are treated as discreet elements separated from the main building with glass “gaskets”.
The existing building was gutted and a horizontal “cut” at a height of three meters was made through the structure in order to open it up to the outside and the spectacular views of the Franschhoek Valley. This cut set up a datum line which organized the space vertically and determined all ceiling heights and the mezzanine level. Lightweight steel structures and elements were added to contrast with the heaviness of the existing and a feeling of airiness pervades the space. Major elements like the tasting counter, fireplaces and ramps were treated as sculptural pieces and provide focal points, as well as guiding one through the space, eventually ending up at the extensive veranda overlooking the vineyards.
Finishes were chosen to be muted yet sophisticated and includes polyurethane resin for the floors, opaque white Perspex for the ceiling, and solid Oak timber for all joinery. The colour palette also complements the brand’s corporate colours. Extensive landscaping complements the interior and features a steel sculpture by Marco Cian fanelli, water features and a herb garden that supplies the kitchen. Sustainability was addressed through the implementation of performance glazing, solar water heating with heat pumps, and energy efficient lighting. All timber was sourced from responsible forestry.
From an urban perspective the existing entrance was moved to the Western facade to address the street and to announce the building to the context. An elaborate approach has been orchestrated that leads the visitor through the vineyards to the formal approach and into the home of Leopard’s Leap.